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Russian weapons blocked from Syria, but flowing to rebels by way of Serbia

Special to WorldTribune.com

MOSCOW — Russia has reported efforts by the West to block weapons exports to
Syria. Meanwhile, Sunni rebels in Syria are acquiring Russian-made weapons from Serbia.

A senior official said Western countries were using a range of
means to stop the shipment of Russian weapons to Damascus. The official
said, however, that the Kremlin has still maintained military deliveries to
the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Syrian soldiers, who have defected to join the Free Syrian Army, look on as one holds up an RPG. /Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

Syrian soldiers who defected to join the Free Syrian Army look on as one holds up an RPG.  /Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

“The [Russian] ships are lured into ports and arrested there under
various devised pretexts,” Federal Service for Military and Technical
Cooperation director Alexander Fomin said. “When the ships are at sea, any insurance is canceled.”

In a radio interview on March 2, Fomin did not specify cases in which
Russia failed to complete arms shipments. He said the attempts reflected an organized effort by the international community.

“A real war has been declared against us,” Fomin said.

Over the last year, both Britain, Finland and Turkey reported the
interception of Russian defense shipments to Syria, including radars and main battle tank components. Damascus has been one of the two largest Middle East clients of Russia’s defense industry.

Meanwhile, Sunni rebels have acquired what they termed a powerful
anti-tank weapon in their war against the regime of Syrian President Bashar
Assad.

Rebels have displayed the RPG-27, a shoulder-fired rocket-propelled
grenade launch system. The Russian-origin RPG was designed to penetrate the
armor of Syrian Army combat armored vehicles, including the T-72 main battle
tank.

In a display in northern Syria, rebels also unveiled the RPG-6 launcher,
another Russian weapon. The rebels said the weapons were
deployed by the so-called Victory Brigade, an Islamist rebel unit that
operates in the Hama province.

Another Islamist rebel militia, Ahrar Al Sham, also displayed the RPG-27
and -6. An Ahrar spokesman said Islamist militias have been sharing these
weapons as part of intensified coordination.

The RPG-6 was said to have been manufactured in Serbia under Russian
license. Earlier, Western reports asserted that Serbia was supplying
weapons to the rebels in a deal financed by Saudi Arabia.

Rebels said additional new heavy weapons were delivered to Islamist
militias in 2013. They said the weapons, which include the Chinese FN-6
surface-to-air missile, were also financed by Qatar.

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