Russia promotes ambassador to Syria to 'special presidential envoy' as Putin consolidates influence in Damascus

Russia promotes ambassador to Syria to 'special presidential envoy' as Putin consolidates influence in Damascus
President Putin has promoted an ambassador to Syria in the run up to the Syrian elections in 2021.
2 min read
28 May, 2020
Putin is moving closer to Syria [Getty]

In a move that analysts are calling a step up in Russia’s desire for autonomy in Syria, President Vladimir Putin has made Moscow’s ambassador in Damascus his special representative for Syria.

Alexander Yevimov has been appointed Special Representative of the Russian President for the Development of Relations with the Syrian Arab Republic.

The manoeuvre is thought to be an attempt by Russia to bypass a number of official lines of communication between Syria and Russia.

Syrian opposition sources have speculated the move means Putin wants to consolidate Russian influence over Damascus with a direct personal channel to Assad bypassing Russia's diplomatic institutions.

Experts even called the new envoy “a de-facto Russian governor of Syria” akin to colonial-era high commissioners.

The ambassador has served since October 2018, he was previously Russian ambassador to UAE, and his focus includes promoting Russian business interests, which are increasingly dominating several of Syria's vital sectors like energy and telecom.

Earlier this week Putin issued a decree appointing 62-year-old Yevimov as “a special representative of the Russian President to develop relations with the Syrian Arab Republic”.

Yevimov was forced to deny reports about Putin removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from his seat of power, and insisted Russian and Syrian ties remain strong.

The appointment has been received with mixed reactions, as political anaylsts are concerned about Russia’s sphere of influence in Syria.

“Moscow is trying to control the centre of decision in Syria, which is represented in Damascus, because it assumes that the domination of Damascus will give it ample space to fully manage Syria’s affairs,” political analyst Samir Salha told Al-Hurra.

Former Russian diplomat and Middle East expert, Vyacheslav Matuzov told Sputnik Arabic that Putin’s move increases Moscow’s influence in Syria, opening a “direct line with Damascus” and allows him to “monitor daily developments directly”.

Professor of International Relations, former Syrian diplomat, Dr. Bassam Abu Abdullah added that with Syrian 2021 elections coming up, Russia wants to position itself securely in the country apparatus to ensure its interests remain in line with Syrian politics.

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