Russia backtracks on official’s quote
MOSCOW – Russia issued a clumsy denial Friday of a statement from its point man on Syria, who said a day earlier that Syrian President Bashar Assad is losing control of the country. The Foreign Ministry insisted it is not changing its stance on the embattled Syrian regime.
Russia’s explanation – that the official was characterizing the opinion of the Syrian opposition rather than stating Russia’s position – did not jibe with the words of Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who was quoted by all three leading Russian news agencies as saying Thursday: “there is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory,” and adding that “an opposition victory can’t be excluded.”
The Foreign Ministry insisted in a statement Friday that Bogdanov was referring only to the claims of the “Syrian opposition and its foreign sponsors forecasting their quick victory over the regime in Damascus.”
Bogdanov was speaking before the Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory body. His statement marked the first official acknowledgment from Moscow that Assad’s regime may fall.
It was certain to have been seen as a betrayal by the Syrian ruler, further eroding his grip on power amid opposition successes on the ground and recognition of the Syrian opposition by the United States and other world powers.