Russia defends continued arms shipments to war-torn Syria


Opponents to the Syrian president hold a banner which denounces the killing of Syrian children by Russian arms, in front of Le Louvre museum on June 12, 2012 in Paris. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said on June 12 that Syria is now in a full-scale civil war as President Bashar al-Assad's military battles opposition forces around the country.



Russia's state arms dealer has justified continuing its controversial arms supplies to Syria on contractual grounds, according to Russia's Ria Novosti, with Rosoboronexport deputy head Igor Sevastyanov saying: “No one can ever accuse Russia of violating the rules of armaments trade."

No, critics point to something a bit bigger than that -- a full-fledged humanitarian catastrophe.

Some 60,000 Syrians have died in fighting between Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad and an armed uprising against his rule during the last 23 months of violence, according to estimates from the United Nations.

(For its part, Ria Novosti described the situation in Syria as a "bitter civil war between the government and Islamist rebels" and cited only 10,000 dead.)

Rosoboronexport head Anatoly Isaikin claimed continued deliveries did not include "offensive weapons," according to the Associated Press. He also said a military aircraft order from Damascus had been put on hold, reported Ria Novosti. His deputy Sevastyanov, meanwhile, responded to a question about whether or not Moscow would continue sending shipments of the Pantsyr mobile gun and missile air defense systems to Syria by saying: 

“The contract was signed long ago and we supply armaments that are self-defense rather than attack weapons, and there can be no talk about any violations by Russia or Rosoboronexport either de jure or de facto,” he said, reported Ria Novosti.

Global stability is really the responsibility of the UN Security Council, he added, said Ria Novosti

Russia and China have repeatedly blocked UN Security Council efforts to address the Syrian conflict by way of arms embargoes and sanctions. 

Sevastyanov said Syria is the 13th or 14th-largest purchaser of Russian weapons. Moscow sold a record number of arms in 2012, representing an 150% increase over the previous year, said Isaikin. The nation's largest clients are Myanmar, Vietnam, Venezuela, and Middle Eastern nations but last year Moscow found new purchasers in Afghanistan, Ghana, Oman, and Tanzania, said Ria Novosti

Syria hosts Russia's only naval base located beyond the former Soviet bloc, according to AP