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Russia Warns Assad by Reducing Air Support | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Bashar al-Assad in the Kremlin in October. Photograph by Alexei Druzhinin, AP

Beirut-Syrian opposition links the reduction of Russia’s air strikes in the past two days, especially in the North, with a possible agreement between Moscow and Washington, in an attempt to activate Geneva talks from one side and deliver a message for the Syrian regime affirming that the final decision goes to Russia, on the other side; after the latter criticized the ceasefire in Aleppo.

In the past two days, after Syrian regime forces retreated from south Aleppo and tipped the scales of the battle, they pulled out of Raqqa for the first time in two years.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ Founder and Director Rami Abdurrahman explained this withdrawal saying that it is due to the absence of Russian air cover, which supports the regime and its allies. This was also noted by leader in the Syrian Free Army, Abu Ahmed al-Assemi, who highlighted the harsh battles carried out by the opposition forces recently.

On the other hand, Spokesman of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Dr. Riyad Naasan Agha considered the reduction in air support by Russia as inseparable from the latest developments and the beginning of disintegration of the alliance between the Syrian regime, Iran, and Russia.

He expected the presence of a U.S.-Russian deal to revive the truce in preparation for the resumption of the Geneva negotiations after Eid al-Fitr.

Naasan said the major developments that contributed to these changes were Khan Touman battle, which caused huge losses in the ranks of the Syrian regime and the so-called Hezbollah, in addition to the visit of the Russian Defense Minister to Syria and his meeting with the head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad in Hmeimim airbase and the mystery that surrounded this visit.