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Russia Renegs on Pledge to Stop Arming Syria

Published: February 19, 2013
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Source: London Independent

Russia has been accused by Western diplomats of reneging on a pledge to stop supplying arms to the Syrian regime. The assurances made over a month ago were presented by British officials as a sign that the Kremlin was distancing itself from President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling coterie.

The flow of arms has, however, continued unhindered with the Russians stressing that there was no United Nations prohibition on supplies and it was simply fulfilling its contractual obligations. As well as air- and naval-defence systems, the Kremlin may now be preparing to send Yak-130 jets which can be fitted with missiles to carry out ground attacks, according to American and European officials.

The Syrian regime has extensively used warplanes to carry out raids on heavily populated areas, leading to dozens of civilian casualties. Russia’s state arms agency holds a $550m contract to supply 36 of the Yaks, which are trainers but can also be used on combat missions. Last year, a Russian-operated ship carrying helicopter gunships and air-defence missiles was forced to turn back to Russia, after its British insurers withdrew coverage. The aircraft were subsequently sent through a different shipping company.

While the Assad regime continues to receive weapons, from Iran as well as Russia, a British attempt to provide military aid to the Syrian rebels failed at a European Union meeting in Brussels today.

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