Posted: Dec 20, 2012 1:35 PM by Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's president is distancing himself even further from Syria's Bashar Assad, a longtime Russian ally.
Vladimir Putin suggested today that the Assad regime is growing weaker. But he says Russia's position hasn't changed -- and that only a negotiated settlement can prevent "an endless civil war."
Other Russian officials have made similar statements recently. Last week, Russia's top envoy for Syria was quoted as saying Assad's forces were losing control of the country.
Russia has stood by Assad throughout the 21-month conflict, providing his forces with weapons and joining with China to protect the Assad government from censure by the U.N. Security Council.
But Putin's latest comments to reporters today suggested that Russia realizes Assad's days could be numbered.
During an annual lengthy press conference in Moscow, Putin said, "We are not preoccupied that much with the fate of the Assad regime."
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