Syrian ally Russia denies statement over Assad fall

Russia issued a clumsy denial Friday of a statement from its point man on Syria, who said a day earlier that Syrian President Bashad 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 opinion of the Syrian opposition rather than stating Russia's position — did not jibe with the words of Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, quoted by all three top 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 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's statement quoted by Russian news agencies marked the first official acknowledgment from Moscow Assad's regime may fall.

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