Assad staged a celebratory welcome Tuesday for visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while his army escalated bombings of civilian homes.
Government-run television said crowds of more than 1 million people attended a rally supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and welcoming the Russian foreign minister. Lavrov is trying to bring an alternative proposal to end the violence that has left the Syria in an undeclared civil war, with thousands of soldiers having defected.
Russia and China this week vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its brutal suppression of the nearly year-old rebellion. Both countries have a vested interest in the sale of weapons to Syria.
With the failed Arab League mission of observers out of the way, Assad has resumed large-scale bombing and killing of citizens, primarily in the city of Homs, a center of anti-government strength.
Dissidents have posted videos showing constant bombing of homes, and many streets have been turned into virtual morgues and field hospitals.
More than 200 people were gunned down in two days, according to opposition activists, while government-controlled media continue to claim that “terrorists” are firing within the city.
The violence has forced the shutdown of the Americans embassy, where President Barack Obama last year returned its ambassador to Syria in an effort to “engage” the Assad regime. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton termed him a “reformer” before having to retract her statement after it was clear that his army and police were brutally gunning down demonstrators.
The dissident “Souria” website wrote, “Assad can only rely on one-third of the army to fight for him so his fighting forces are weaker than they appear on paper. Groups of up to 50 soldiers and more defect on an almost daily basis, with many of the defectors switching sides and joining the resistance movement freedom fighters of the Free Syria Army.
“Our Syrian people have been abandoned and are at the mercy of the unrestrained Assad killing machine, which is receiving resupply shiploads of Russian munitions that are landing at our port of Tartus as well as truckloads of Iranian Armaments driven in through Iraq.