This week, Russian media agency Tass reported a Syrian opposition delegation had been received in Moscow to discuss ongoing negotiations in the war-torn country. And while at first read this may sound surprising, it's actually around the fifth time in a month such a claim has emerged.
If you follow the conflict, you know this is hardly the first time Russia's boasted a meeting with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Each time it happens, opposition groups respond with fierce denial. And while it was easy enough for a lot of media outlets to dismiss the first alleged visit as Putin-bolstering propoganda, it's getting a little awkward now that it keeps happening.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov alleged Monday he received a delegation from the Syrian National Coalition, the Turkey-based political wing of the Syrian opposition. He said the following about the meeting: "The sides discussed in detail in and around Syria with a focus on issues of political and diplomatic settlement of the Syrian crisis."
The Russian FM said discussions focused particularly on "intra-Syria negotiating process of the basis of the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012 and with efficient international backing, as provided by the Syria support group statement adopted in Vienna on October 30," referring to the multilateral talks in the Austrian capital at the end of last month.
The Vienna talks came on the heels of a Russian offer to provide air support to FSA rebels fighting Daesh (ISIS) and subsequent rejection by opposition factions, who said Russian planes were already targeting their positions instead of Daesh's, anyway.
Yet, just after FSA groups shot down the offer, the first report of an opposition fighter in Moscow emerged when a soldier from the Syrian Arab Army claimed to be part of the FSA.
Another appeared early this month.
Followed by a denial, this time with a statement and list of faction signatories.
Since its bombing campaign began last month, Russia's goals in Syria have been made pretty clear—as has been the case for the last five years, Moscow is backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Airstrikes have tageted rebel positions across the country, as well as those belonging to Daesh and Syria's al-Qaeda wing Jabat al-Nusra. Claiming the FSA is showing up in Moscow could be another propoganda ploy to make the conflict as a whole appear to be at the complete whim of Russia.
These reports are undoubtedly an easy way to ramp up support, but as the number of claims and denials grow, it's getting harder to tell which side is writing the script.
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