FILE - In this Thursday Oct. 6, 2011 photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, stands next to Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha, right, during a ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, in Damascus, Syria. Syria's state-run TV says the country's defense minister has been killed in a suicide blast in the capital. Wednesday's attack struck the National Security building in Damascus during a meeting of Cabinet ministers and senior security officials. (AP Photo/SANA, File)
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's deputy foreign minister said Thursday that President Bashar Assad is losing control over Syria and his opponents may win, the first acknowledgement by Assad's main ally that he faces a likely defeat.
While Mikhail Bogdanov didn't 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," 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.
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