Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a "fundamental, perhaps fatal" mistake by not implementing political reforms and drawing in the opposition more quickly.
He made the remarks in a wide-ranging interview with the U.S. network CNN, a transcript of which was posted on Medvedev's official website.
Medvedev emphasized that the Syrian people, not outside forces, must ultimately decide Assad's fate.
He blamed the fighting in Syria equally on the government and the "irreconcilable" opposition that he said includes elements of "Islamist radicalism."
Medvedev also spoke at length about the case of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died while in pretrial detention in 2009. Medvedev said Magnitsky never fought against corruption but was instead "an ordinary corporate accountant or lawyer who served his boss."
He said Magnitsky's death while in custody should be investigated, but that such incidents also happen in the United States and in Europe.
Medvedev criticized the so-called Magnitsky law, a U.S. measure that applies targeted sanctions to Russian officials accused of human rights violations. He said that although every country has the right to deny admission to foreigners, it was wrong of the U.S. Congress to brand an entire group of Russians as criminals without the benefit of a trial.
Adoption Law 'Not Tied' To Magnitsky
He said the situation is bad for U.S.-Russian relations and for international legal practice.
Medvedev defended the Russian Duma's response to the U.S. Magnitsky law, in which it banned the adoption of Russian children by American citizens. He said the antiadoption measure is not "legally or factually" tied to the Magnitsky law.
He said that although "a large quantity" of the Americans who have adopted Russian children over the last 20 years have raised them properly, Russians "not infrequently" get information about adopted Russian children who died or were abused by their adoptive parents.
He added that "75 percent of Russian are against foreign adoptions."
The prime minister also commented on U.S.-Russian relations, saying that there has been no progress in recent months on the dispute over U.S.-led plans to install a missile-defense system in Europe.
He said the U.S. position on missile defense would prevent the two countries from agreeing to any further reductions in strategic nuclear weapons.
Medvedev also said that he did not seek a second term as Russian president because he did not want to create a split within the "political force" represented by himself and President Vladimir Putin.
He said he cannot rule out continuing his political career after his time as prime minister.