U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry next to outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti during their
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry next to outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti during their meeting in Rome. February 28, 2013. Photo by Reuters
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Russia has condemned the decision by Western nations to support the Syrian opposition in its battle to oust President Bashar Assad.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that moves announced in Rome on Thursday "in spirit and in letter directly encourage extremists to seize power by force, despite the inevitable sufferings of ordinary Syrians that entails."

The Obama administration announced it would provide $60 million in assistance to Syria's political opposition Thursday and, in a first, said it would provide non-lethal aid directly to Syrian rebels.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and senior officials from 11 other countries said they wanted to "change the balance of power on the ground."

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing that the U.S. is ''constantly reviewing the nature of the assistance we provide to both the Syrian people, in form of humanitarian assistance, and to the Syrian opposition in the form of non-lethal assistance."

According to the New York Times, "Under a broad definition of 'nonlethal,' assistance to the opposition could include items like vehicles, communications equipment and night vision gear. The Obama administration has said it will not — at least for now — provide arms to the opposition."

The UN says over 70,000 people have died in the conflict, during which Russia has shielded Assad's government from sanctions.