Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made a "grave, possibly fatal mistake" and his chances of retaining power are getting "smaller and smaller" every day.
Medvedev warned however against a situation in which the current political elite in Syria would be swept away by armed action, as the resulting civil war would last "for decades.”
The FSA, the main armed opposition group operating in Syria, said in a statement sent to RIA Novosti: "The unified command of the Free Syrian Army views the statements made by the Russian prime minister on Syria and the fate of Bashar al-Assad as Russia’s new position towards the Syrian crisis.”
The FSA also expressed hope Russia’s new position will speed up UN Security Council measures to oust the embattled Assad regime, in an effort to stop the violence in the country.
Russia’s "new stance” will allow Syria to "oust [Assad] by any way which the Syrian people wishes to choose,” the FSA said.
"Time is working against us in our wish to bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and to stop displays of extremism and anarchy, which Assad seeks. Those who place their stakes on Assad’s victory have completely lost the game. Assad is the main part of the problem, and there is no solution to it,” the FSA said.
Russia last week evacuated by air some 77 Russian citizens from Syria, mostly women and children, in a move which prompted US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland to claim Moscow was losing faith in the Syrian regime.
The news of Russia’s evacuation of some of its nationals from Syria "is not surprising and it speaks to the continued deterioration of the security situation and the violence that Assad is leading against his own people," Nuland said, ABC News reported.
Russia's top diplomat, however, warned against misinterpreting Moscow's stance on Syria.
At a meeting with his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned his foreign colleagues against "misinterpreting Russia’s actions in regard to the Syrian conflict.”
Russia has "never been enchanted by” or "supportive” of the Syrian regime, Lavrov stressed, adding all Moscow's efforts were aimed at complying with the Geneva comminique, which calls on Syria to set up an interim government in order to promote peace in the country.
"That is our stance. It’s not about supporting this or that party in the ongoing tragedy,” Lavrov said.
Syria has been locked in an increasingly bloody civil war since demonstrations broke out against President Assad in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Russia has faced strong international criticism over its refusal to back UN sanctions against Syria, its last ally in the Arab world, over what it calls the pro-rebel bias of some resolutions proposed by Western nations. Moscow denies it is backing President Assad and says it is concerned the Syrian president’s forced departure would only worsen the conflict.