Conflict & Justice

Russian helicopters en route to Syria are refurbished, not new


Russia defended itself against Hillary Clinton's claims that they are supplying Syria's pro-Assad forces with weapons.



The Russian attack helicopters en route to Syria that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US was "concerned" about on Tuesday are not new, but rather, were just undergoing routine maintenance, the New York Times reported Thursday

Though Clinton's remarks were widely interpreted to mean that Moscow was selling Syria new helicopters, an official told ABC News on the condition of anonymity that Russia was sending refurbished, already-purchased helicopters back to Syria. 

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"Such repairs/overhauls/modernization is common practice, and that is very likely the explanation," Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks global arm sales, told ABC News. 

Clinton's comments on the arms deal between Russia and Syria was reportedly part of the US' plan to pressure Russia into abandoning President Bashar al-Assad, officials told the Times. Moscow has continued to support the Syrian dictator's regime in an attempt to hold on to its influence in the region.

“She [Clinton] put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position," a senior Defense Department official told the Times of Clinton's comments. 

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that whether the helicopters are new or not doesn't matter, the Associated Press reported

"Whether they are new or they are refurbished, the concern remains that they will be used for the exact same purpose that the current helicopters in Syria are being used, and that is to kill civilians," Nuland told reporters. "These are helicopters that have been out of the fight for some six months or longer. They are freshly refurbished. The question is simply what one expects them to be used for when one sees what the current fleet is doing."

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The Russian arms corporation Rosoboronexport told the Times that their contracts with Syria do not violate any sanctions. Russia has so far blocked the UN's attempts to impose additional sanctions and other peace measures on Syria. 

“Russia says it wants peace and stability restored," Clinton said Wednesday after meeting with India’s foreign minister, according to the Times. "It says it has no particular love lost for Assad. And it also claims to have vital interests in the region and relationships that it wants to continue to keep. They put all of that at risk if they do not move more constructively right now.”