Russia's Vladimir Putin asked Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down, according a report.
Assad refused, according to the Financial Times. The Russians allegedly sent a diplomatic envoy to Syria telling last last year asking Assad to step down, leaving the Syrian more entrenched than before in a failed power-play for regional stability.
Assad lost control of his country in 2011 and fighting an array or armed groups including ISIS. Colonel-General Igor Sergun, who died Jan. 3, was sent to Syria on a mission to get Assad to resign and transition power to other members of his regime and open the possibility of negotiations with moderate rebels in the region, reports the FT.
Assad, according to the report which was based on information from Western intelligence officials, refused, telling Sergun that there was no future for Russia in Syria beyond his presidency. Russian support of Assad's regime has, at times, put them at odds with the West.
Russian officials denied the report that Putin asked Assad to step down.