Regime warplanes carried out air strikes near the capital and a car bomb blew up in Damascus province, while gunmen shot dead an athletics champion, AFP reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying.
A day after U.N.-Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Moscow repeated its long-held position that only Syrians can decide their fate.
“In our opinion, the priority task is to immediately stop any violence and bloodshed as well as provide Syrians including internally displaced persons and refugees with humanitarian aid,” the foreign ministry said.
But it added: “At the same time it is necessary to secure the launch of a political transition process in Syria aimed at enshrining in law guaranteed and equal rights of all ethnic-confessional groups of this country.”
Moscow, a key Damascus ally, also reiterated its support for a transition plan that was agreed in Geneva in June but has since split world powers.
Bogdanov also met a Syrian delegation led by Michel Kilo, a prominent anti-regime activist who opposes foreign intervention, and pledged to continue “active contacts” with both Damascus and the opposition, the ministry said.
Moscow has been reluctant to endorse the “Arab Spring” popular revolts of the last two years, saying they have increased instability in the Middle East and created a risk of radical Islamists seizing power.
Although Russia sells arms to Syria and rents one of its naval bases, the economic benefit of its support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is minimal. Analysts say President Vladimir Putin wants to prevent the United States from using military force or support from the U.N. Security Council to bring down governments it opposes.
However, as opposition fighters gain ground in the war, Russia has given indications it is preparing for Assad’s possible exit, while continuing to insist he must not be forced out by foreign powers.
Opposition activists say a military escalation and the hardship of winter have accelerated the death toll.
Rebel forces have acquired more powerful anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons during attacks on Assad’s military bases.
Assad’s forces have employed increasing amounts of military hardware including Scud-type ballistic missiles in the past two months. New York-based Human Rights Watch said they had also used incendiary cluster bombs that are banned by most nations.