"We never supported Assad's regime," says Andrei Klimov, deputy chair of the State Duma's international affairs committee. "Our point was always that both sides have to share in the responsibility. There has to be ceasefire, and they both have to stop shooting. Assad promised everybody, including Russia, that he will end this outrage. Let us see whether he is able to keep this pledge. If he doesn't, then Russia may change its attitude towards him, because it will mean that he has fallen out with us as well.
At least one big Western organization concurs that Russian policy on Syria may be changing.
"The Russian position has moved from what it was. They are genuinely supportive of the Annan plan," says Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, who is in Moscow this week to discuss Syria with the Russian foreign policy community. "But Moscow must still recognize that the violence is being perpetrated overwhelmingly by the Syrian government – and use its own close relations with the Syrian leadership to reduce that violence and ensure compliance with international efforts to end the human rights crisis."
Today Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Moscow with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem, and urged Syrian authorities to move more decisively to comply with their commitment to begin withdrawing troops and heavy weaponry from towns and cities by today, in preparation for a nationwide ceasefire to commence April 12.