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Russia Says In Contact With Western-Backed Syrian Rebels

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has said Moscow maintains contacts with Western-backed rebels in Syria.

"Someone is arriving, someone is leaving, all of them are saying that they are representatives of the Free Syrian Army," Bogdanov said on October 26, confirming that FSA representatives visited Moscow last week.

Earlier on October 26, a spokesman for the FSA's Southern Front, Issam al-Reis, said the rebel alliance would reject any offers of military assistance from Russia while it continued to bomb FSA-affiliated groups.

Russia "should stop attacking our bases and then we can talk about future cooperation," he said.

"So we didn't turn down the offer," Reis added. "We just said we don't need their help now."

The comments came after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Russia's air force was ready to provide cover for the FSA in its fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

Russia launched its bombing campaign in Syria on September 30, saying it is targeting "terrorists." But critics say the strikes have mainly hit opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, strengthening the hand of IS militants.

Based on reporting by TASS, Interfax, Reuters, and the BBC

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