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Putin Has a Syria ‘Headache’ and the Kremlin’s Blaming Assad

  • Kremlin-linked bodies target Syrian leader as talks stall
  • Iran, U.A.E. complicate Russian efforts to pressure Assad
Bashar al-Assad, left, and Vladimir Putin, right, meet in Damascus on Jan. 7.
Bashar al-Assad, left, and Vladimir Putin, right, meet in Damascus on Jan. 7.Photographer: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin is letting his impatience show with Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad, who isn’t proving as grateful for being kept in power by Russian intervention in his country’s brutal civil war as the Kremlin leader needs him to be.

Consumed at home by the twin shocks of collapsing oil prices and the coronavirus epidemic, and eager to wrap up his Syrian military adventure by declaring victory, Putin is insisting that Assad show more flexibility in talks with the Syrian opposition on a political settlement to end the nearly decade-long conflict, said four people familiar with Kremlin deliberations on the matter.