Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia, said Thursday that President Bashar Assad is losing control of his country and the rebels might win the civil war, the first time Moscow has acknowledged the regime is cracking under the force of a powerful rebellion.
NATO also predicted Assad’s fall, with Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen saying the regime’s collapse is “only a matter of time.”
“An opposition victory can’t be excluded, unfortunately, but it’s necessary to look at the facts: There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said during hearings at a Kremlin advisory body.
Bogdanov also said Moscow is preparing to evacuate thousands of its citizens from Syria, where nearly two years of violent conflict have killed more than 40,000 people.
Opposition fighters have seized large swaths of territory in northern Syria along the border with Turkey and appear to be expanding their control outside of Damascus, pushing the fight closer to Assad’s seat of power in the capital. In a Damascus suburb, a bomb blast Thursday near a school killed 16 people, at least half of them women and children, the state news agency SANA reported.
A day earlier, the U.S., Europe and their allies recognized the newly reorganized opposition leadership, giving it a stamp of credibility and possibly paving the way for greater international aid to those fighting Assad’s forces.
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