The Russian leader has made clear he will not abandon Assad. (Sergei Chirikov/ Pool photo via AP)
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President Vladimir Putin's intervention in Syria has saved President Bashar Assad's government from imminent collapse and raised Russia's global clout.It's hard to imagine how Russia and the U.S. could agree on Syria after President Donald Trump called Assad "an animal" over the deadly attack, while Moscow has insisted on the Syrian leader's innocence.Putin hasn't lost hope of making a "grand deal" with Trump, but the Russian leader's unflinching support for Damascus indicates he doesn't see dumping Assad as part of it.Russia has argued that civilians in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun likely died of toxic agents released from a rebel arsenal hit by a Syrian airstrike – a theory categorically rejected by the U.S. and its allies.Neither Syria nor Russia used their air defense assets to try to fend off last week's U.S. attack on the Shayrat air base, which Washington said had served as a platform for the chemical attack.
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