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Medvedev Says Russia Not Defending Assad

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has rejected charges that Russia is defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview with Russian state television on October 17, Medvedev said Russia was defending its "national interests" with its military operations in Syria on the basis of a "request from the lawful authorities" of that country.

Medvedev added that the matter of who will lead Syria "should be decided by the Syrian people." He said the only thing that mattered to Moscow is that "we don't want IS to head Syria."

Moscow says its air strikes in Syria have exclusively targeted the Islamic State (IS) group, while the United States and other countries say they are aimed at bolstering Assad's government by targeting his domestic opponents.

Medvedev also criticized the United States for refusing to receive a Russian delegation that would have been headed by the prime minister for discussions on Syria.

"I think this is stupid behavior," he said, that demonstrated U.S. "weakness."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

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