News / Middle East

Russian Ship Suspected of Carrying Arms to Syria Turns Back

Edward Yeranian
CAIRO - A cargo ship believed to be carrying Russian-made attack helicopters has been halted on its way to Syria after its insurance coverage was withdrawn.  Some analysts say the nature of the cargo was what kept the vessel from reaching its destination.
The cargo ship, the MV Alaed, is said to have had its policy cancelled by insurers in London.

Britain says the vessel is now heading home. "I am pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has turned back apparently towards Russia," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons.
A statement by the British-based ship insurance company Standard Club said it was told about the nature of the vessel's cargo and it consequently informed the ship's owners that their "insurance coverage ceased due to the nature of the journey."

Syrian Ground Forces

  • 200,000 - 250,000 ground forces
  • 4,950 main battle tanks
  • 590 reconnaissance vehicles
  • 2,450 armored infantry fighting vehicles
  • 1,500 armored personnel carriers
  • 3,440 artillery pieces
The Russian news agency Ria Novosti reported that the ship is thought to be carrying refurbished Russian Mi-25 attack helicopters as well as coast-based anti-ship missiles.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague recently raised the issue of Russian arms shipments to Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
In a public statement last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was concerned about a shipment of Russian helicopters, saying they had the potential to escalate the conflict in Syria. Russia rejected the accusations that it was supplying armed helicopters to Syria. 
Analyst Riad Kahwaji of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis says that the apparent deal involves Syrian Mi-24 attack helicopters that had been sent to Russia some time ago to be refurbished and upgraded.  He also says the deal is more economic than political.
"This is part of an old deal. My belief is that the Russians see the situation in Syria deteriorating quickly....and could be on the verge of they are pre-empting this by sending all they have, or due to be delivered to the Syrians now, not just to help in crushing the rebellion but to get their money, once they deliver these weapons," he said. 
Kahwaji says Russia lost billions of dollars last year in an arms deal it had signed with the regime of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, which collapsed before the transaction was completed. 

  • This image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network purports to show smoke rising from buildings in Homs, Syria, June 18, 2012.
  • Fire burns after shelling at the Al Qussoor area in Homs, Syria, June 18, 2012.
  • This image made from amateur video purports to show smoke rising from buildings in Homs, Syria. Syrian forces renewed shelling of the central city of Homs on Monday, one day after the head of the U.N. observers' mission demanded that warring parties allow
  • Residents flee their homes after shelling in Houla near Homs, Syria, June 18, 2012.
  • Residents gather during the funeral of Hussein Omish, whom protesters say was killed by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Jubar outside Damascus, Syria, June 18, 2012.
  • Demonstrators hold opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kfr Suseh, Damascus, Syria. June 18, 2012

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said at a recent press conference that the deal with Damascus involved refurbished Soviet-era helicopters that are being returned to Syria under existing contracts. He said none of the weapons Russia is providing can be used against civilians.
Middle East analyst James Denselow of King's College London argues that the recently reported Russian decision to send two warships to Syria has more strategic importance than any possible deal regarding attack helicopters. "The fact that the Russians, I think more importantly, are sending two boats from their navy down to Tartus, and a squadron of marines as well, reflects their sort of more strategic concern. I think they're defending their interests in Syria," he said. 
Russia has faced increasing Western criticism over arms supplies to Syria, where the United Nations says government forces have killed more than 10,000 people in a crackdown. 

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Comment Sorting
by: James from: USA
June 20, 2012 4:40 PM
This is a joke, right? The Russians really don't need "insurance" for transporting cargo whatever it may be. They can still get whatever anyone wants from Russia with assurances. However, if the U.S. or anyone else should try to blow the ships out of the waters. Nobody is going to pay the replacement costs for war actions.

by: Olive N from: Canada
June 20, 2012 7:51 AM
But, they're all doing it , Africa and the rest of the world have been rid of slavery and see themselves out of Western bondage , but they are virtually and economically intergrated with firmer grip under voluntary bondage in the new global economy . It irks me when I hear this repulsive complain from western media about China or Russia ship carrying arms to nations under political and economic assault from the West and their allies . For example my country , Nigeria is currently under the worst economic carnage of historical propotion ever known to man , all Nigerian leaders, have been carting away every penny collected from sell of petroleum to the West back to them since 1965 when oil became the dominant economic resourse in the country . and every penny intended to develope the nation are being robbed to Western Banks and financial institution all over Europe and Amerca.

by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
June 19, 2012 9:53 PM
Any Russian diplomat (FM Lavrov) is heavily trained by the FSB & Intelligence. To lie is a part of their job. MI-25 helicopters were the most trusted and reliable in Russian warfare.

by: bruceben9 from: usa
June 19, 2012 4:54 PM
this would seem to allow the russians, who really don't want to support assad, to return some of the arms back home. hey, you wouldn't drive w/o insurance, would you?

by: Fareed Ansari from: San Francisco, CA
June 19, 2012 4:26 PM
One of the high points in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton illustrious career as Americas ambassador in chief. By simply alerting Lloyds of London that a shipment it had insured had been misrepresented, saved ay armed intervention.

by: Michael from: Russia
June 19, 2012 4:24 PM
Why everybody speaks about Russian ships supporting Syria and nobody speaks about America or France supporting arabic countries revolutions? Everyone knows that the USA is the biggest revolution supporter but only Russia and China have balls to say that in public.

by: kay from: oregon
June 19, 2012 3:04 PM
Finally, insurance recision actually does some good.

by: Anonymous
June 19, 2012 1:02 PM
This is the only good news we've heard in a long time about the Syrian conflict.
In Response

June 20, 2012 12:39 AM
What about the rebels' ­weapons? Where have they been coming from? Obviously, They are from the US, UK, France, Turkey, Israel...and Who intends to block them? Nobody.
In Response

by: Concerned
June 19, 2012 9:19 PM
couldn't agree more.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Wangaratta
June 19, 2012 7:02 PM
Russia is low on the list of arms dealers. Look up Arms Dealers on the net and you will find the American Congress saying that they need to look at this type of supply of weapons more closely as America is the biggest suppliers of arms in the world especially to third world countries. Also in monetary aid America is the lowest on the list for helping out countries around the world.
In Response

by: Serega from: Davydovo. Russia.
June 19, 2012 5:21 PM
Are you living in Syria? Poor man (woman, boy)! I don't now, but I felt a sickness in my heart, when I saw the dead children.
In Response

by: Another Anomymous
June 19, 2012 4:26 PM
That is of course if we can believe the press anymore...
In Response

by: Syria Reconcile
June 19, 2012 4:24 PM
If sending refurbished gunship helicopters now is truly more economic than political, then that should be a simple solution: NATO could arrange to be broker dealer to keep them in storage back at port of departure until a political solution has been achieved and a cease-fire secured.

If at all possible however, these gunships should not be allowed into the fight, as that would send a strategic message -- more than it's actual tactical asset value -- to the current regime, that there must be a cease-fire and a peaceful solution!

The opposite would happen however, if the gunships are delivered; as it would only incentivize and embolden the Regime further to carry on the fight believing they could indeed win militarily.

The message must be clear and firm: Cease-fire, dialogue, civil truce, minority/sectarian security guarantees, political process, reconciliation, atonement and redevelopment.

In no way should the continued perception of a military victory being possible, be encouraged or supported. That one perception... ie, feeling boxed in and forced to fight to death and victory, is what's escalating the civil war, radicalizing increasing elements of opposition and ensuring human catastrophe.
In Response

by: BSDetector from: OK, USA
June 19, 2012 3:19 PM
It warms my heart that weapons are being sold that can't be used against civilians. Oh wait...

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