Russia's apparent military support for the Syrian regime emerged on Wednesday when a Russian ship carrying 60 tonnes of arms for Damascus was stopped in Cyprus.And today:
The MV Chariot, which set off from St Petersburg in early December, was forced to pull into the Greek Cypriot port of Limassol because of stormy seas. It had been on its way to Turkey and Syria, inspectors said.
Customs officials who boarded the ship discovered four containers. They were unable to open them but concluded that they contained a "dangerous cargo". State radio in Cyprus went further, alleging that the Chariot was carrying "tens of tonnes of munitions".
Russia is one of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's few remaining international allies. Moscow resents what it regards as western encroachment on its traditional sphere of influence and has continued to supply Damascus with advanced weapons and other arms, to the annoyance of Washington.
For its part, Syria gives Russia a strategic foothold in the Mediterranean via a shared naval maintenance facility in the port of Tartus.
The cargo ship was apparently heading to the Syrian port city of Latakia. As well as blocking a UN resolution last October in the security council, condemning Syria's human rights resolutions, the Kremlin is sending its warships to call on Syrian ports this summer.
The Cypriot foreign ministry said the boat was allowed to continue its voyage after assurances from the Russian owners it would not go to Syria. The Chariot, a St Vincent and Grenadines-flagged ship, technically broke an EU arms embargo to Syria, imposed amid Assad's continued violent crackdown against peaceful demonstrators.
A Russian ship, allegedly carrying tons of weapons, made a dash for Syria after Cypriot officials allowed it to leave their waters, Turkish officials said Thursday.Once again I am disappointed that Russian arms smugglers, shipping explosives to a murderous regime so it can kill thousands of its own people, would actually lie to the nice people in Cyprus.
The ship had made an unscheduled stop in Cyprus Tuesday, technically violating an EU embargo on arms shipments to Syria, which has killed thousands in a crackdown on dissent.
Cypriot officials — told by the ship's owners it was heading for Syria and Turkey — only allowed the ship to leave Wednesday after the owners said it had changed its destination for Turkey only.
But Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal — citing information from the Turkish navy — said the ship had docked Thursday at the Syrian port of Tartus, which Russian warships use as a resupply stop.
The St. Vincent and Grenadines-flagged ship, the Chariot, had apparently turned off its tracking device and the information could not be independently verified.
What's the world coming to when you can't trust people? They looked so nice, too. And honest.