MOSCOW (AP) — Russia says Western powers are “openly instigating” Syrian opposition groups to take up arms in their fight to unseat President Bashar Assad.

Moscow has been Syria’s key protector throughout the 17-month uprising that evolved into a full-blown civil war, shielding Assad’s regime from international sanctions and providing it with weapons despite an international outcry.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed Wednesday that the West “has done nothing” to urge Assad’s opponents to start a dialogue with his government. It claimed that the “pharisaical” Western approach to the Syrian civil war does not help resolve the conflict that has killed an estimated 19,000 people.

The Kremlin, backed by fellow veto-wielding UN Security Council member China, has blocked any plans that would call on Assad to step down.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.