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    Syrians walk past a giant campaign billboard of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on June 1, 2014 in the capital Damascus.

    Kremlin on Assad Ouster Rumor: Russia Has Nothing to Do With Regime Changes

    © AFP 2019 / JOSEPH EID
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    Ousting a nation's legitimate leader has never been a tool of Russia's foreign policy.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia's foreign policy does not include the practice of regime change, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday, commenting on media reports of a Moscow plan of Syrian reconciliation presupposing President Bashar Assad's departure from office.

    On Tuesday, Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari told The Guardian that in 2012 Moscow suggested a reconciliation deal for Syria, suggesting to "find an elegant way for Assad to step aside" after launching peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition.

    According to Ahtisaari, the senior peace negotiator and former Finnish president, the plan was rejected by Western states because they were "convinced that Assad would be thrown out of office in a few weeks.”

    "Russia is not engaged in the change of regimes, offering elegant or inelegant ways to step aside — this is what Russia has never been engaged in," Peskov told reporters.

    The spokesman added that from the beginning of the Syrian crisis Russia has repeated that only the Syrian people can, by use of democratic procedure, determine their future.

    Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011 as government forces loyal to President Assad fight several opposition and radical Islamist militant groups, including the Nusra Front and the Islamic State.

    A number of Western countries have long been vocally supportive of what they call "moderate" rebel fighters, while Russia has repeatedly stated that Assad is the legitimate president of Syria, and that citizens of the country must choose their government and leaders, without outside intervention.

    In August, the Syrian president said that he is grateful for Russia's assistance as Moscow has consistently stated its firm position in support of Damascus during the military conflict

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    regime change, Dmitry Peskov, Bashar al-Assad, Syria, Russia
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