Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be losing control and territory to rebel forces, adding that "unfortunately, it is impossible to exclude a victory of the Syrian opposition" — the most clear indication yet that Russia sees Assad, a longtime strategic ally, as headed for defeat. Bogdanov also said Russia is preparing to evacuate its citizens from Syria, the first such announcement. For months Russia has resisted Western pressure to persuade Assad to step down. Bogdanov's announcement came after White House officials on Wednesday claimed that Assad's regime had fired Scud missiles at rebels in recent days, in what's being seen as a major escalation of the fighting between the two sides. On Wednesday, President Obama also recognized Syria's opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
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