In this April 10, 2012 file pool photo, from left: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov meet in Moscow.

Moscow -

ITAR-Tass news agency is quoting Russia's deputy foreign minister as saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad is increasingly losing control and the opposition may win.

Thursday's remarks by Mikhail Bogdanov are the first acknowledgement by a Russian official that the Syrian strongman could lose a bloody civil war.

Russia has shielded Assad from international sanctions and continued to provide it with weapons.

While Bogdanov didn't signal Moscow's readiness to edge closer to the West and approve sanctions against Assad's regime, the statement appears to reflect that Moscow has begun positioning itself for his imminent defeat. - Sapa-AP