Russia says suspects West wants to use militant group to topple Assad

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a meeting with his Guatemalan counterpart Carlos Raul Morales in Moscow, Russia, October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday he suspected the West wanted to protect a Syrian militant group formerly known as Nusra Front because it wanted to use it to try to topple President Bashar al-Assad one day.

Lavrov also said that militants belonging to the group were refusing to leave the besieged city of Aleppo.

He added that Moscow was very concerned by reports that Turkey was bombing the parts of Northern Syria.

When asked what Russia thought about a Syrian government threat to shoot down Turkish war planes violating its air space, he said Syria was a sovereign nation.

Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Andrew Osborn