MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin distanced himself further than ever before from his longtime ally in Syria on Thursday, saying he understands Syria needs change and that he is not protecting its president.
Putin, however, warned that efforts to unseat Bashar Assad could plunge Syria even deeper into violence.
He insisted that Russia has not changed its stance and believes that only a negotiated settlement can end the civil war.
Putin’s assessment came a week after Russia’s top envoy for Syria was quoted as saying Assad’s forces were losing control of the country.
Although the Foreign Ministry backpedaled on that statement, analysts have suggested for months that the Kremlin is resigned to Assad’s fall.
Russia has blocked international attempts to step up pressure on the Assad regime, leading to accusations that it is supporting Assad.
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