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DAMASCUS, Syria – They stare at you from mugs, pins and fridge magnets in souvenir shops in Damascus.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah 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 airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 30 aimed at shoring up Assad's fledgling forces. The airstrikes helped turned the tide of the five-year conflict in Assad's favor, earning the gratitude of supporters. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah flags.
A vendor says the pins and mugs with Assad, Putin and 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. Among those spotted wearing one was Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, during a recent interview with The Associated Press.
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