MOSCOW // Russia's deputy foreign minister said that President Bashar Al Assad is losing control over Syria and his opponents may win, as a bomb explodes in a southern Damascus suburb, killing at least 16.
While Mikhail Bogdanov did not issue any immediate signal that Russia could change its stance and come to support international sanctions against Assad's regime, his remarks carried by Russian news agencies appear to indicate that Moscow has begun positioning itself for a regime change in Syria.
"We must look at the facts: there is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory," Mr Bogdanov said during hearings at the Kremlin advisory body, the Public Chamber. "The opposition victory can't be excluded."
At the same time, he repeated Russia's call for a compromise, saying it would take the opposition a long time to defeat the regime and the country would suffer heavy casualties.
"The fighting will become even more intense, and you will lose tens of thousands and, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of people," he said. "If such a price for the ouster of the president seems acceptable to you, what can we do? We, of course, consider it absolutely unacceptable."
Russia has joined with China at the United Nations Security Council to veto three draft resolutions that would impose sanctions on Assad's regime over its bloody crackdown on the uprising that began in March 2011. Moscow also has continued to provide the Syrian government with weapons despite strong international protests.
Syria's state news agency reported that at least 16 people, seven of them children, were killed ina car bomb in the town of Qatana, southwest of Damascus, with Sana blaming "terrorists" for the attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the bomb, outside an army housing complex and near an elementary school, killed 17 people, including two women as well as the seven children.
"This morning, terrorists targeted the residential area of Ras al-Nabaa with a vehicle loaded with explosives, blowing it up in front of the Mikhael Samaan school," Sana said.
Another 23 people were wounded in the bombing.