New Zealand Herald
Tuesday 19th February, 2013
Russia has been accused by Western diplomats of reneging on a pledge to stop supplying arms to the Syrian regime.
The assurances made more than a month ago were presented by British officials as a sign the Kremlin was distancing itself from President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling cabal.
The flow of arms has, however, continued unhindered, the Russians stressing that there was no United Nations prohibition on supplies and it was simply fulfilling its contractual obligations.
As well as air and naval defence systems, the Kremlin may now be preparing to send Yak-130 jets which can be fitted with missiles to carry out ground attacks, according to US and European officials.
The Syrian regime has extensively used warplanes to carry out raids on heavily populated areas, leading to dozens of civilian casualties. Russia’s state arms agency holds a US$550 million ($651 million) contract to supply 36 of the Yaks, which are trainers but can also be used on combat missions.
Last year, a Russian-operated ship carrying helicopter gunships and air-defence missiles was forced to turn back to Russia after its British insurers withdrew coverage.
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