Putin and Assad pop up in Syria’s war souvenirs

DAMASCUS // They stare at you from mugs, pins and fridge magnets in souvenir shops in Damascus.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, Syrian president Bashar Assad and Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah are a hot commodity in Damascus these days, their faces posted on mementos in the capital’s old bazaars.

Putin souvenirs popped up shortly after Moscow began conducting air strikes in Syria on September 30 aimed at shoring up Mr Al Assad’s fledgling forces.

The air strikes helped turned the tide of the five-year conflict in Mr Al Assad’s favour, earning the gratitude of supporters.

The Iranian-backed Hizbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to help government forces.

At a small shop near the ornate walls of Damascus’ famed Omayyad Mosque, shelves are bedecked with porcelain plates, lighters, plastic ID covers and magnets with the leaders’ faces on them.

Others, including traditional wooden souvenir boxes and bracelets, necklaces and key chains, feature Russian, Syrian, Iranian and Hizbollah flags.

A vendor says the pins and mugs with Mr Al Assad, Mr Putin and Mr Nasrallah on them are especially popular among Russian soldiers who come and buy from his shop.

“They love them,” he says, pointing to a mug with the trio on it.

Also on sale in hotel souvenir shops are watches with Assad’s portrait inside.

* Associated Press

Published: April 25, 2016 04:00 AM

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