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    Syrian Opposition Visits Chechnya to Exchange Counterterrorism Experience

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    A Syrian opposition delegation visited the southern Russian republic of Chechnya to exchange experience in battling terrorism, the republic's head told Sputnik in an interview.

    GROZNY (Sputnik) — Syrian opposition representatives visited Chechnya to "exchange experiences" with the southern Russian republic, which has overcome years of terrorism, the acting leader of the Chechen Republic told Sputnik in an interview.

    "They visited for consultations. Experience sharing: you have gone through this, what should we do?" Ramzan Kadyrov said.

    He did not specify which opposition group the delegation represented.

    "[Syrian] President [Bashar] Assad twice invited me… to visit. But I just did not have time… I want to go, certainly," Kadyrov said.

    Kadyrov added that he was going to make a visit to Syria before the September elections in the southern Russian region of Chechnya.

    All Syrian Opposition Decisions Made by Third Party — Chechen Leader

    Kadyrov told Sputnik that the Syrian opposition is not free to make any decisions, they are made by a third party.

    "They cannot decide anything on their own, a 'puppet master' is behind them and this 'puppet master' makes all the decisions," Kadyrov said following a meeting with the representatives of the Syrian opposition.

    He added that the Syrian opposition representatives, including military commanders, do not know what they want, which makes them an "absolutely manageable opposition."

    Syria Can Preserve Statehood if Properly Uses Russia's Assistance

    Syria's only chance not to lose its statehood is to properly utilize the assistance Russia has given it, Chechen Republic acting leader Ramzan Kadyrov told Sputnik in an interview.

    "Today, they have only one chance — which is taking advantage of what Russia has done for them: <…> it boosted the army's morale, showed how to fight," Kadyrov said.

    "[The Russian advisers] not only taught them, but raised their spirit," Kadyrov said.

    According to the Chechen leader, Syria was not able to create a strong army and this situation only changed when Russia came to Syria's aid.

    "Now, if they properly use what they've got they still can do something. But if this continues, they will lose everything. They will never build a state again," Kadyrov said.

    He cited Egypt and Libya as an example.

    "Several opposition factions are fighting each other for power. Some for the Americans, others for Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood finances one organization, the United States [support] one general, others finance another general. Daily conflicts, some take one territory, others another. And what happens? They have no leader at the moment," Kadyrov said.

    Assad Assumed 'Right Position' in Relations With Russia

    "Assad assumed the right position by aligning with Russia. Russia does not betray its allies," Kadyrov said, adding that Russia was the only state that could provide Syria with real assistance.

    "Look at Assad, he is not a warrior. He appears to be an intelligent person, a diplomat. But it turned out, he is holding on in there. So many people are involved in it, so many states, there are forces against him, but he continues to work calmly on his own. He proved to be a strong man."

    Moscow recognizes Assad as the legitimate authority in the country, stressing that the Syrian people should be free to choose their leadership without outside intervention. The United States and some of its allies have been supporting the so-called moderate Syrian opposition since the beginning of the conflict, while urging Assad to resign.

    Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011, as government forces fight opposition groups and extremists operating in the country. Russia started its counterterrorism operation in Syria in September 2015, at the invitation of Syrian President Bashar Assad. On March 15, Russia began a major withdrawal of its military from Syria after accomplishing its objectives.

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    Tags:
    counterterrorism, Bashar al-Assad, Ramzan Kadyrov, Syria, Russia, Chechnya
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