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Why has the Kremlin upped its protocol for Syria's Assad in Russia?

Public ceremonies for the Syrian leader, in contrast to his previous secret meetings, suggest that Assad is in a stronger position to negotiate with Moscow.
Assad Putin

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's visit to Moscow this week was his first following regular protocol, rather than as a special operation, reported only after the fact.

His trip was even preceded by an announcement. Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported on March 6 about the preparations for the official visit. 

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