Russia backs Syria's legitimate authority

Moscow: The Russian government said on Sunday that it supports legitimate authority in Syria, not Syrian President Bashar al-Assad personally. "We are supporting not Assad (himself). Do not forget: he has not been the best friend of ours, but he has been the friend of West," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters. "We have backed the maintenance of the legitimate government, of power, because we have understood that if the president leaves, the government will follow him, the executive authorities as well as the army will disintegrate," RIA Novosti news agency quoted Zakharova as saying. She reiterated that Russian air forces were deployed to Syria to prevent collapse of the country and to fight with terrorism in the Middle East, not to support Assad in the civil war. After conducting anti-terror airstrikes in Syria for over five months, Russian air forces started withdrawal of main forces on March 15 under the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the agreement of Assad. Russia has been supporting the Assad administration in Syria, which led to disputes with the US and its allies as they insisted Assad to step down.