U.S., NATO tracking Russian ship with upgraded attack helicopters for Syria (WORLD TRIBUNE) LONDON, ENGLAND 06/18/12)
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LONDON — The United States has been working with NATO allies to
track a Russian weapons ship to Syria.
Western diplomatic sources said Britain and the United States were
coordinating patrols of the North Sea for a Russian vessel that
contained attack helicopters for the regime of President Bashar Assad.
The sources said the Russian ship was transporting Mi-24 helicopters
overhauled by Russia’s state-owned arms agency Rosoboronexport.
“At this point, the mission is to track the weapons ship not intercept
it,” a diplomatic source said.
At first, the administration of President Barack Obama said the
Kremlin had ordered a shipment of new attack helicopters to Damascus.
Later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clarified that the
helicopters were Syrian Army platforms overhauled in Russia.
Officials did not say how many Mi-24s were suspected aboard the
Russian ship. But they said Assad reached an agreement for the
upgrade of 36 Mi-24s acquired by Damascus nearly 20 years ago.
For its part, Russia has denied reports of a weapons ship bound for
Syria. The latest reports in the Western media identified the Russian
Navy ship as Nikolai Filchenkov, said to have left the Crimea for the
Syrian port of Tartous.
“The ship is in the state of instant readiness for departure like all
the fleet’s warships,” a Russian Navy source told the RIA-Novosti
June 17. “There are no marines aboard the ship, and there were no
for a voyage towards Syria. The crews are engaged in day-to-day
At the same time, the Russian Navy has been preparing to send several
warships to Syria. On June 15, an unidentified member of the Russian
Staff told the Itar-Tass news agency that the Black Sea Fleet has been
assigned to protect Russian interests in and around Syria.
“The Mediterranean Sea is a zone of the Black Sea Fleet
the Russian general said. “Therefore, warships may go there in case
necessary to protect the Russian logistics base in Tartous, Syria.
warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, including large landing
marines aboard, are fully prepared to go on the voyage.”
Earlier, human rights groups said a Russian cargo vessel, Professor
Katzman, brought weapons to Tartous on May 26. Washington has
Moscow was sending weapons and ammunition to Assad but did not refer
“It was a general cargo of non-military purpose featuring electrical
equipment and repair parts — rotor blades — in containers and wooden
crates,” Universal Cargo Logistics Holding, which owns Professor
said on June 16.
Russian leaders said the Kremlin has approved continued delivery of
combat platforms for Assad. They said the platforms — believed to
the MiG-29 fighter-jet, trainer jets and air defense batteries — were
ordered by Damascus as early as 2007. (Copyright © 2012 East West
Services, Inc. 06/18/12)
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