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.
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"As far as we can find out, there haven't been any sales of helicopters to Syria for at least a decade," says Sergei Babichev, editor of the Agency for Military News (AVN), a branch of the independent Russian Interfax news agency. "If anything has happened at all (regarding Syrian helicopters) it might have been some upgrades, or something like that, performed on old Soviet-made machines in Russia. We have asked Rosoboronexport (the state arms export corporation) about this, and they simply assure us that Russia acts in accordance with all international agreements and regulations. We interpret this to mean there's no new equipment of this kind being sold to Syria."Skip to next paragraph
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Russia has frequently reiterated its position that some $5 billion in outstanding arms contracts with Syria do not violate UN sanctions and are comprised only of weaponry that contribute to Syria's national self-defense. Russia points to past arms deliveries to Syria such as Bastion coastal defense missile systems, Yakhont cruise missiles, and Buk surface-to-air missile systems as examples.
Asked about a current deal to supply Pantsyr S1 mobile gun and missile systems to Syria, the head of Rosoboronexport, Igor Sevastyanov, said yesterday: "The contract was signed long ago and we supply armaments that are self-defense rather than attack weapons, and there can be no talk about any violations by Russia or Rosoboronexport either de jure or de facto."
IN PICTURES – Russia's military might
In a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted that "as for arms supplies, Russia is not supplying arms that could be used in civil conflicts."
Russia regularly replies to charges that it is fueling Syria's civil war by alleging that the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are doing so by providing arms to the rebels. Russia insists it is pursuing a conservative foreign policy that respects national sovereignty and opposes foreign intervention in strife-torn states like Syria.
"We have no data on recent Russian sales of military helicopters to Syria," says Igor Korotchenko, director of the independent Center for the Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT) in Moscow.
"I suspect these accusation are best explained by the active information campaign [in the West] aimed at discrediting Russian policy and undermining its efforts to settle the Syrian conflict peacefully. There's a lot of disinformation going around, and this looks like more of the same."