Syria-bound arms ship returning to Russia

June 21, 2012 at 3:03 PM
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MOSCOW, June 21 (UPI) -- A Russian cargo ship carrying refurbished attack helicopters to Syria turned back and was expected to dock in the Russian port of Murmansk, officials said.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the MV Alaed was informed its third-party insurance coverage had been canceled and the vessel would stop in Murmansk Saturday, RIA Novosti reported Thursday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told RT television the ship was carrying air defense systems and three Mil Mi-25 helicopters "which were overhauled under a contract [Syria] signed with Russia in 2008." Despite international outrage, Larov defended the shipment saying it "in no way contravened any international agreements or U.N. Security Council resolutions" because the helicopters were not assembled and would take around three months to rebuild.

Lavrov told Ekho Moskvy radio reports Russian-delivered helicopters had been used against Syrian demonstrators were "a completely false position conjured up to create fear and put Russia in a bad light."

The Russian shipping company that owns the Alaed, Femco, learned Tuesday its insurer, Britain's Standard Club, had withdrawn coverage because the ship, which sails under a Curacao flag, was carrying weapons to Syria in violation of a European Union arms embargo.

The foreign ministry official said the vessel was expected to re-register under the Russian flag.

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