French newspaper Le Monde published a report pointing to signs of Russian concerns over the regime's weakening military position, mainly in the capital Damascus.
The report claimed Moscow had evacuated the families of Russian military personnel from a naval base on the coastal city of Tartous, stating: "An Ilyushin 76 plane took off in May 29, carrying 80 passengers from Lattakia airport, a province considered to be the stronghold of Syria’s Alawites".
The newspaper explained that according to many observers, the evacuation reflects Moscow's doubts on the regime's ability to control the situation. The newspaper quoted Russian Middle East specialist Anatoly Nisemean, saying: "Who were the Russians evacuating? They were not ordinary civilians, but the families of military advisors".
The newspaper said the recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Sochi was one "sign" that raised the concern of observers. The paper wrote: "According to many sources, the two officials discussed the post-Assad stage. After the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said the two parties held talks on ways to settle the war in Syria".
Le Monde quoted the Director of the Brookings Institution in Doha, Suleiman Sheikh, who recently met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, as saying: "The Russians feel they will lose their influence and that the disintegration of the Syrian state is not in their favor. The Russians say: Well, the regime controls only 50 percent of the Syrian territory, but who controls the remaining 50 percent, and who will replace Assad? Herein lies the problem".
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer