Kiev Denies Syrian Arms Connection Report

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday denied a recent newspaper report alleging that Russian arms exports to Syria may have been coming via a Ukrainian sea port near Odessa.

Ukraine Foreign Ministry

The report by the Washington Post on Monday alleged that Russia may have been supplying the arms to Syria via the port of Oktyabrsk.

The report detailed suspicious routes of vessels that may have carried the weapons. 

“There were not any shipments or transit of military goods from Russia to Syria via the territory of our country in 2012-2013,” the ministry said in a statement.

The issue looms large as the U.S. has been considering a military strike against Syria amid allegations that Syrian troops have recently used chemical weapons to kill more than 1,400 civilian people, many of them children.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was postponing any military action in order to let negotiations run their course over Syria turning over its chemical weapons to international control.

The report in The Washington Post focused on potential role that Oktyabrsk may have played in the arms shipments to a region that has been involved in civil war for the past 2.5 years.

Western governments have long known that Russia is providing crucial backing for the government of President Bashar al-Assad, including many of the heavy weapons used to battle opposition forces.

But Western intelligence officials and independent experts say a substantial portion of the aid appears to be arriving in commercial ships, prompting analysts to look closely at this Cold War-era military port and its long history of arming Russian allies and some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

A new study by independent conflict researchers described a heavy volume of traffic in the past two years from Ukraine’s Oktyabrsk port to Syria’s main ports on the Mediterranean.

The dozens of ships making the journey ranged from smaller Syrian- and Lebanese-flagged vessels to tanker-size behemoths with a long history of hauling weapons cargos.

The study by C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit group, linked some of the larger vessels to a network of businessmen and companies with ties to senior government officials in Russia and Ukraine.

The authors acknowledged that there are no manifests or satellite photos proving that the ships carried weapons, and they say shipping data are sometimes imperfect.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called on Tuesday for political and diplomatic resolution of the Syrian crisis, but also expressed growing concern over the use of chemical weapons.

"Ukraine expresses its deep concern over evidence that might confirm the use of chemical weapons in Syria, which has led to many casualties," the ministry said. 

Source: Ukrainian Journal