Russia denied Tuesday that its Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov had said Syrian President Bashar Assad was willing to step down.
Quoting an unnamed official at the Foreign Ministry, Russia’s state-run RIA Novosty news agency claimed Bogdanov did not give an interview to the Saudi paper Al-Watan, which had reported earlier Tuesday that Bogdanov stated Assad was willing to relinquish power after the 18-month uprising.
According to the Saudi report, the Russian diplomat also revealed that the president’s brother, Maher Assad, was severely injured in the blast that killed several key regime officials in Damascus last month. Assad’s presence in the building was previously unknown.
The report claimed that Maher Assad, the commander of Syria’s 4th Division and the Republican Guards in charge of protecting the capital, lost his legs and suffered life-threatening injuries to his lower body in the explosion. “He is still struggling to survive,” Bogdanov reportedly told the daily.
Four senior officials were killed in the blast that took place in the national security headquarters, including deputy defense minister Gen. Assef Shawkat, who was married to Assad’s elder sister, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, National Security chief Gen. Hisham Ikhtiyar and Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister.
Al-Watan reported that Bogdanov had said that the security situation in Syria has rapidly deteriorated since the explosion in Damascus.
“Putting down the weapons is the best solution to prevent Syria from deteriorating into civil war, which we believe is imminent,” Bogdanov told Al-Watan in a phone conversation, according to the paper. “We [Russia] are the only ones who believe in a drive toward a political solution.”