High-ranking Russian officials claim that CIA Director John Brennan visited Moscow on March 14 to meet with Russia’s federal intelligence agency. A CIA spokesman allegedly clarified that the meeting had nothing to do with Russia’s withdrawal from Syria.
“It’s no secret that Brennan was here,” claimed Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov. “But he didn’t visit the Foreign Ministry. I know for sure that he met with the Federal Security Service (the successor agency to the Soviet KGB), and someone else.”
No further remarks clarify what Brennan was allegedly doing in Moscow or what he discussed with the FSB. Syromolotov insists it had nothing to do with Russia’s withdrawal from Syria.
Sputnik News, a Kremlin-controlled propaganda outlet, quotes CIA Director of Public Affairs Dean Boyd as affirming that Brennan did, in fact, discuss Syria during the visit. “Director Brennan,” he allegedly said, “reiterated the US government’s consistent support for a genuine political transition in Syria, and the need for [President Bashar] Assad’s departure in order to facilitate a transition that reflects the will of the Syrian people.”
The same day of the alleged visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the removal of some of its military from Syria six months after the Kremlin began airstrikes in the region.
“The effective work of our military created the conditions for the beginning the peace process,” said Putin, adding:
“I hope today’s decision will be a good signal to all the conflicting sides. I hope this will significantly increase the level of confidence of all participants of the settlement process in Syria and will contribute to the solution of the Syrian issue through peaceful means.”
Putin allegedly decided to withdraw the military on his own, without requests from his advisers, reports note. He also told the news to the Syrian dictator personally on the telephone.
In the last week, the Syrian forces have pushed the Islamic State back into Raqqa, the self-declared capital of their Caliphate. The forces regained Khanasser and killed many Islamic State fighters with help from Russia and Hezbollah troops.
Syrian peace talks began in Geneva this week with Russia, sponsored by the United Nations. It includes a special delegation from Syria.
However, some believe Putin’s intentions are a ploy.
“Putin is just sending a message herein that he is ‘in control’ in Syria, and he can force Assad to the negotiating table, if or when he so wishes,” stated Tim Ash, head of emerging-market strategy at Nomura in London.
He also believes that Putin is making an attempt “to reinforce on the West that Russia can brings lots of ‘solutions’ in Syria, and all this still seems to be a Russian negotiating ploy with the West.’”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed the country has evidence that Turkey has expanded its mission in Syria.
“According to our information, they are digging in a few hundred meters from the border inside Syria,” he said.
Lavrov said the Kremlin believes that Turkey wants to “prevent Kurdish groups there from consolidating their positions” right across the Syrian border. The Turkish authorities also “imposed curfews on two mainly Kurdish towns.”