Russia urged Syria on Monday to immediately stop the use of force and repression against civilian protesters, in its strongest criticism yet of the government's crackdown on demonstrations.
The Foreign Ministry expressed "serious concern" after activists said Syrian security forces killed nearly 140 people Sunday in one of the deadliest days in more than four months of anti-regime protests.
Moscow strongly urged Syria, for decades one of its leading allies in the Arab world, to stop the use of force while also calling on the Syrian opposition to refrain from attacks against the authorities.
"The use of force against both peaceful civilians and representatives of state structures is unacceptable and should be stopped immediately," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"We are calling on the Syrian government and the opposition to demonstrate the utmost restraint, renounce provocations and repressions and observe the rule of law and respect for international human law."
In the statement, Russia called for the start of "responsible and substantial all-encompassing dialogue" that would include the interests of all Syrians.
Together with China, Russia, which holds veto power on the UN Security Council, has persistently blocked a Western-drafted resolution on Syria, to the irritation of other world powers.
Moscow has repeatedly stressed that it was firmly opposed to foreign interference in Syria and believed its regional ally could find a political solution to its crisis.
US President Barack Obama and European leaders condemned the pre-Ramadan crackdown as Germany and Italy called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.
A meeting could be held later on Monday, but such a move could reopen bitter divisions within the council, which has not yet been able to agree even on a statement on President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown against opponents.
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Syrian army kills nearly 140 people Sunday