Russia dismisses claims of fueling Syrian conflict with attack helicopters (+video)
Responding to US accusations, Russia insists any weapons it provides to Syria are only used for self-defense and accused the US and others of arming the Syrian rebels.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended his country's ongoing arms sales to Syria today, but refused to specifically address allegations by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Moscow is providing the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad with attack helicopters that might be used against rebels.Skip to next paragraph
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"We are not violating any international law in performing these contracts," Mr. Lavrov said during a press conference in Tehran, where he is consulting in advance of upcoming Moscow talks on Iran's nuclear program. "They [the United States] are providing arms and weapons to the Syrian opposition that can be used in fighting against the Damascus government," he said, repeating Russian allegations that outside powers have been providing sophisticated weapons, including antitank missiles, to Syrian rebels.
Russia insists that what it provides to Syria is merely for self-defense and is not being used in the current conflict. But yesterday Ms. Clinton accused Russia of exacerbating Syria's slide into full-blown civil war by delivering attack helicopters, although she did not provide further details.
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"We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically," she said. "We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued armed shipments to Syria. They have from time to time said that we shouldn't worry, everything they're shipping is unrelated to their actions internally. That's patently untrue," Clinton added.
Russian military experts say they are baffled by the claim, since – as far as is publicly known – Russia stopped selling helicopters to Syria more than a decade ago, and hasn't even serviced any since 2006.
On the other hand, Syria currently possesses at least 36 Mi-25 "Hind-D" helicopter gunships, a formidable flying artillery platform made famous by Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s. They are widely alleged to have already been employed against the rebels by Syrian forces in the current conflict.