Russian officials are denying an earlier report that a Moscow diplomat said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is prepared to step down from power after more than a year-and-a half of brutal violence in the Mideast nation.
A daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia, Al-Watan, reported that Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov indicated that Assad’s departure is imminent. However, Russia’s state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti refuted those claims.
"Mikhail Bogdanov gave no interview [either by phone or in person] to the Saudi newspaper al-Watan," an unnamed source in Russia’s foreign ministry told RIA.
Al-Watan, which provided no further details of Assad’s alleged impending resignation, also claimed that his brother Maher al-Assad -- the commander of the 4th Division of Syria's Republican Guards -- had lost his legs during a recent bombing in Damascus which killed four other regime officials and that his life was in danger.
Russia, which has remained a loyal ally to Assad throughout this crisis, has repeatedly stated that Assad’s fate must be in the hands of the Syrian people and not dictated by foreign influences.