Kremlin denies report that Putin asked al-Assad to "step aside"

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Friday denied a media report that the Russian president proposed that his embattled Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, resign.

"No, this did not happen," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

The British newspaper Financial Times reported earlier in the day that Putin sent an envoy to Damascus late last year to ask al-Assad to "step aside."

The newspaper said Putin sent Colonel-General Igor Sergun, director of Russia's military intelligence agency, to make the request "just weeks before [Sergun's] death on January 3."

Sergun bore a message to al-Assad, saying the Kremlin "believed it was time for him to step aside," it said.

The Syrian leader "angrily refused" Sergun's request, the newspaper said, citing two "senior Western intelligence officials" who provided details of the mission.

It said Moscow's proposal involved "a choreographed transition of power that would maintain the Alawite regime but open the door to realistic negotiations with moderate rebels."

If confirmed, the move would reflect a shift by Putin, who has publicly backed al-Assad, a leading member of the ruling Alawite sect, and insisted that he must be part of any political solution in Syria.

The newspaper said Russian Foreign and Defence Ministry officials declined to comment by press time.

Last update: Fri, 22/01/2016 - 15:48

View the discussion thread.


Putin asked Assad to "step aside," FT says


Friday, January 22, 2016 - 14:39

More from World

US astronaut John Glenn - "ultimate hometown hero" - dies at age 95

Former astronaut and US senator John Glenn, who shot to fame in 1962 as the first American to orbit the Earth, died...

Gambian president-elect says he will reverse decision to leave ICC

Gambia will reverse its decision to leave the International Criminal Court, president-elect Adama Barrow announced...

Tsunami threat declared over for Solomon Islands after massive quake

The tsunami threat from Friday's magnitude-7.8 earthquake near the Solomon Islands has passed, says the Pacific...

Saudi Arabia "playing proxy wars," Boris Johnson says in latest gaffe

British ally Saudi Arabia is "puppeteering and playing proxy wars" in the Middle East and, like Iran, is "twisting...

Russia: Syrian military suspends Aleppo attacks to allow evacuation

The Syrian military has suspended its attacks on militant-held eastern Aleppo to let civilians be evacuated to...