Russia confirms sending repaired helicopters to Syria
Published Thursday, June 21, 2012
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that a cargo ship that turned back toward Russia earlier this week was carrying three repaired helicopters bound for Syria, the Interfax news agency reported.
He told the Echo Moscow radio in an interview that the ship Alaed had also been carrying air defense equipment, but gave no further details.
British media had reported earlier this week the ship, owned by Russian cargo line Femco, had picked up the helicopters from the Russian port of Kaliningrad, where they had been sent for servicing and repairs.
The ship, which headed back to Russia after its British insurer withdrew cover, would return to the port of Murmansk on June 23 to sail under the Russian flag rather than that of the Caribbean island of Curacao, said foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.
"The ship Alaed sailed on June 11 with a cargo including Mi-25 helicopters which are the property of the Syrian side," he told reporters.
"When it was moving into the Atlantic from the North Sea, the owner was informed that insurance cover had ceased," Lukashevich said.
"In order to prevent a possible seizure of the ship, the decision was taken for it to dock in the (Russian Arctic Circle) port of Murmansk where it is expected on Saturday to be re-flagged under the Russian flag" he added.
Russia denied US accusations that it was sending new attack helicopters to Syria, stating that they were only conducting repairs on helicopters it delivered to Syria under a previous agreement years ago.
"We would like to urge other countries who deliver military technology to this and other regions where there is a risk of its use against peaceful civilians to follow the example of Russia," Lukashevich said.
Lavrov also said on Thursday that any peace plan for Syria that calls on President Bashar Assad to leave power and go into exile was not workable because he would not quit.
"A scheme according to which President Assad should leave somewhere before something happens in terms of a cessation of violence and a political process, this scheme does not work simply from the very start," the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.
"It is infeasible because he will not leave."
Lavrov's remarks follow British media reports that British and American officials had offered Assad clemency in return for negotiations on a power transition deal.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)