The president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, has demanded that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad enact reforms or resign from power, according to reports.

After almost eight months of anti-government unrest in Syria, a brutal crackdown by Assad’s regime has resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and the detention of thousands more. Assad has promised certain reforms, but has largely failed to act on any of them.

If the Syrian leadership is incapable of conducting such reforms, it will have to go, but this decision should be taken not in NATO or certain European countries, it should be taken by the Syrian people and the Syrian leadership, Medvedev said, according to Russian news agencies.

Medvedev seems to be suggesting that Moscow would oppose any attempts by foreign forces to oust the Syrian leader.

Russia and China were bitterly criticized by the U.S. and Western European nations for exercising a veto on a resolution by the United Nations Security Council to impose harsher sanctions on Syria and Assad.

Syrian opposition leaders have rebuked Russia and China for their refusal to make moves against Assad.

Faruk Tayfur, deputy chairman of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council, told Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency that Russia in only interested in its economic interests in Syria, citing that Moscow sells weapons to Syria and keeps a naval base there.

According to Moscow Times, Russian exports to Syria totaled $1.1-billlion in 2010, and its investments in Syria amounted to nearly $20-billion in 2009.

However, Medvedev now appears to be mildly stepping back from his previous intransigent position.

Russia wants as much as the other countries for Syria to end the bloodshed and demands that the Syrian leadership conduct the necessary reforms, Medvedev said.

Medvedev had earlier criticized the NATO bombing campaign of Libya as illegitimate and adhered to that policy line.

Russia will continue standing against attempts to legitimize through the UN Security Council unilateral sanctions aimed at toppling various regimes, he said.