Putin meets Assad, takes swipe at U.S. and Turkey

President Vladimir Putin received Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in Moscow for the first time since 2015 on Monday and criticized foreign forces that are in Syria without a U.N. mandate, the Kremlin said, in a rebuke of the United States and Turkey.

Russia’s air force played a critical role in turning the tide of the Syrian conflict in Assad’s favor after it deployed there in 2015, helping him recover most territory lost to insurgents.

Putin told Assad that foreign forces in Syria without a U.N. decision were a hindrance to its consolidation, the Kremlin said. Putin also congratulated him on winning a fourth term in office in a presidential election in May.

The United States tightened sanctions against Syria last year, saying they were aimed at forcing Assad to stop the war and agree to a political solution.