MOSCOW, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- A Russian Foreign Ministry source denied a diplomat told a Saudi newspaper Syria's president is ready to leave office, a Russian news agency said Tuesday.
The Saudi daily al-Watan had reported Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in a telephone interview that Bashar Assad, whose regime is engaged in civil war with rebel forces, was willing to step down, and that Russia was working to bring about a solution that will guarantee a smooth transition of power.
But a source in the ministry's press service told RIA Novosti Bogdanov "has not given any interviews, especially by phone, to Saudi newspaper al-Watan."
"This looks like an ordinary information provocation," the Russian news agency quoted the unnamed source as saying.
The Saudi newspaper also quoted Bogdanov as saying Assad's brother Maher was severely injured in an explosion that killed a number of senior regime figures in Damascus last month. Maher, who commands Syria's 4th Division and the Republican Guards in charge of protecting Damascus, lost his legs in the explosion and suffered life-threatening injuries, the Russian official said.
RIA Novosti said the newspaper had recently changed editors and is regarded as a tabloid.