Russian FM Says Moscow Not Smuggling Tank Parts to Syria

BRUSSELS, February 18 (RIA Novosti) – Following Finland’s seizure last week of tank parts reportedly bound for Syria from Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow had not tried to smuggle arms components to Syria via Finland.

The cargo’s origination point and intended destination were reported by the carrier transporting it, Finnline, on Friday.

But Lavrov said the Russian government – which controls Russia’s sole arms exporter, Rosoboronexport – had nothing to do with the equipment.

“There was no governmental cargo on the ship, and so we’re trying to make inquiries into this report,” Lavrov said, speaking at a meeting with his colleagues from Northern Europe in Brussels.

Finnish Customs reported last week that it was investigating the origins of a container full of spare tank parts that was unloaded from a ship at Helsinki’s Vuosaari Harbor in January.

Finnline said the container had military equipment, but did not identify its owner.

Rosoboronexport refused to comment on Finnline’s cargo, but has confirmed earlier that it is shipping military equipment to Syria in line with existing contracts.

Members of the European Union, including Finland, are prohibited under EU regulations from exporting arms to Syria, where a civil war has claimed some 70,000 lives, according to the latest United Nations estimates.

Last July, a Russian ship, the Alaed, carrying helicopter gunships to Syria was forced to return to St. Petersburg after British insurers pulled its coverage. Lavrov said at the time that the aircraft were not a new purchase but had only undergone maintenance in Russia.


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