25 Jun 2012

Russian arms ship to resume journey to Syria

5:44 am on 25 June 2012

Interfax reports that a ship carrying Russian helicopters to Syria, which turned back after its insurance was cut, is expected to resume its journey accompanied by at least one other vessel.

"A military-diplomatic source in Moscow told Interfax that (the ship) will go from Murmansk to Syria. According to his information the ship should travel under escort," the news agency reported.

The Alaed entered the Russian port of Murmansk on Sunday to change its flag to the Russian Standard.

The ship which entered the Russian port of Murmansk yesterday to change its flag to the Russian Standard, will not be accompanied by military vessels.

The report did not say how the ship had resolved its insurance problems or what difference the flag change would make.

United States officials called the shipments reprehensible and the Arab League has said they should be stopped.

Russia acknowledged on Thursday it was trying to send repaired combat helicopters - not new equipment - to Syria.

No UN arms embargo

Moscow is one of Syria's main arms suppliers. There is no UN arms embargo on Syria.

Russia has said it is fulfilling old contracts signed before the uprising began and is sending defensive weapons that can only be used to protect the country from outside aggression.

Femco, the ship's operator, did not confirm that the Alaed was heading back to Syria,

"As a purely commercial organisation, Femco is informing that the Alaed is carrying out a commercial trip on the basis of a time charter contract with a Russian state company," the statement said.

Defence analyst Ruslan Aliyev said the Alaed was carrying 12-15 Mi-25 helicopters that were repaired in Kaliningrad and bought by the late President Hafez al-Assad at the end of the 1980s.

The Alaed first sailed from the Russian port of Baltiisk in the Baltic province of Kaliningrad on 11 June.