Russian Arms for Syria No Threat to Protesters

Russia is completing deliveries of air defense weapons to Syria under contracts concluded earlier and is not supplying any arms that can be used against protesters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

Representatives of Human Rights First, a U.S.-based advocacy group, announced in late May that a Russian ship allegedly carrying weapons had docked at the Syrian port of Tartus, which hosts a Russian naval base.

“We are not supplying the Syrian government with arms that even an overwrought imagination could suppose are being used against peaceful protesters,” Lavrov said.

Syria is one of Russia’s major weapons clients, and Moscow has opposed proposals for an arms embargo on Damascus.

“We are completing the implementation of contracts signed and pre-paid long ago on deliveries of air defense weapons that could be used only if Syria is subjected to military intervention from abroad. We are not delivering anything else,” Lavrov said.

Russia has supplied Syria with Bastion coastal missile systems with Yakhont cruise missiles and Buk surface-to-air missile systems under a contract signed in 2007.

The top Russian diplomat said that in contrast to Moscow “our U.S. colleagues are supplying countries of the Persian Gulf region with the very type of arms that could be used against peaceful demonstrators.”

Lavrov’s words echo last week’s statement of President Vladimir Putin, who during the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed information that Russian arms supplied to Syria might be used against protesters.

According to UN estimates, about 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, which started with peaceful protests but have since grown increasingly militarized.


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