Russia is denying an American news report that it smuggled explosives out of Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in March, 2003.

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry described the report Thursday in the U.S.-based Washington Times newspaper as absurd.

He says the action would have been impossible because all Russian military experts had left Iraq long before the invasion.

In the report today, The Washington Times says Russian Special Forces moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related items out of Iraq and into Syria ahead of the invasion.

It quotes a top U.S. defense official as saying Russian troops "almost certainly" removed high-explosive material from the al-Qaqaa facility south of Baghdad.

Iraqi officials have reported that 377 tons of explosives have disappeared from the facility.

Some information for this story provided by AFP and AP.