Russia denies Assad control claim
Russia's foreign ministry has denied that a top diplomat said Syrian president Bashar Assad is losing control of his country.
It said in a statement that deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov "has not made any statements or special interviews recently" on Syria but was simply citing the stance of the Syrian opposition while giving a speech on Thursday.
Russian state-owned news agencies had quoted Mr Bogdanov as saying that rebels might win the civil war, a comment that appeared to dramatically shift Russia's stance on Syria.
The US later commended Russia for "waking up to the reality" by acknowledging the regime's impending fall.
Analysts viewed the diplomat's statement as Russia's attempt to begin positioning itself for Assad's eventual defeat.
The foreign ministry insisted in a statement that Mr Bogdanov was referring only to the claims of the "Syrian opposition and its foreign sponsors forecasting their quick victory over the regime in Damascus".
"In that context, Bogdanov again confirmed Russia's principled stance that a political settlement in Syria has no alternative," the ministry's spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, said in the statement.
Mr Bogdanov was speaking before the Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory body. His statement quoted by Russian news agencies appeared to mark the first official acknowledgement from Moscow that Assad's regime may fall.
It was certain to be seen as a betrayal by the Syrian ruler, further eroding his grip on power amid opposition successes on the ground and recognition of the Syrian opposition by the United States and other leading world powers.
While Mr Bogdanov's statement seemed to signal an attempt to begin positioning itself for Assad's eventual defeat, the foreign ministry's backtracking on that clearly indicated that Russia has no intention yet to end backing for its ally.