FSA is So Secretive It Has No Idea If Its Members Were in Moscow

© AFP 2022 / BARAA AL-HALABI Rebel fighters from the "First Battalion" under the Free Syrian Army take part in a military training on June 10, 2015, in the rebel-held countryside of the northern city of Aleppo
Rebel fighters from the First Battalion under the Free Syrian Army take part in a military training on June 10, 2015, in the rebel-held countryside of the northern city of Aleppo - Sputnik International
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The Free Syrian Army is somewhat of a Schrödinger's cat these days: its representatives visited Moscow last week and at the same time FSA leaders deny claims that they went to the Russian capital.

The information regarding the visit was confirmed by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on Monday. The next day, several senior members of rebel groups linked to the FSA claimed the visit did not take place.

"Nothing of this sort happened on our part as FSA. It is impossible for us to accept going to Moscow, and to have dialogue with it. We don't want their help. … We contacted our friends in other areas and nobody went," Abu Ghiath al-Shami, the spokesman for Alwiyat Seif al-Sham, told Reuters.

The same duality principle applies to accepting Russian help on the battlefield. On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Moscow was ready to cooperate with and provide aerial assistance to FSA-affiliated groups. Some senior members welcomed the move, others flatly refused.

© Sputnik / Mikhail Voskresenskiy / Go to the photo bankDestroyed buildings in Dahaniya, Damascus.
Destroyed buildings in Dahaniya, Damascus. - Sputnik International
Destroyed buildings in Dahaniya, Damascus.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov broke the news that Russia finally managed to establish a preliminary contact with representatives of moderate opposition in Syria, adding that it was not an easy task.

Free Syrian Army fighters use an iPad as they prepare to launch a weapon toward the forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Ain Tarma, in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus January 3, 2015. - Sputnik International
O Free Syrian Army, Where Art Thou? Nobody Seems to Know Who, Where FSA Is
"These efforts are ongoing. I hope that the contacts will produce results," the diplomat noted.

This is a major feat indeed. For weeks, Moscow was asking anyone familiar with any group fighting under the FSA banner to share information on the exact location of the moderate opposition. Up until now, repeated attempts to talk to moderate rebels failed.

Whether they will be successful this time largely depends on the Free Syrian Army, which is a loosely-organized entity that lacks single leadership or real presence on the ground. Experts and officials both in Syria and beyond say that the FSA did exist some time ago but has been mostly absorbed by radical groups, including Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra.

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