The latest official line on Syria is incredibly mendacious, even by Russian standards. First, Putin claims that Russia is not taking sides:
“We have a good, long-standing relationship with Syria, but we do not support any side from which the threat of a civil war may emerge,” Putin told a joint news conference with Merkel.
Second, and worse, Putin made this remarkable statement:
“As for supplying weapons, Russia does not provide weapons that could be used in a civil conflict,” he added.
Just what kind of weapons cannot be used in a civil conflict?
Syria is using armor and artillery in its current onslaught, so those quite evidently can be used in a civil war. Moreover, reports about the most recent shipment indicate that a Russian ship supplied small arms and ammunition to Syria:
The ship, the Professor Katsman, apparently turned off its transponder on May 26 in the vicinity of Tartus, Sadia Hameed of Human Rights First told AFP. The vessel had been tracked from Piraeus in Greece.
Hameed said she could not be sure of the cargo because there was no official manifest. “The sense we get is that (the ship’s contents) are small arms and ammunition.”
Nice touches. No official manifest. Turning off the transponder. Yup, VVP-obviously nothing to hide.
The biggest importer of arms to Syria, Russia sold Damascus nearly $1 billion worth of arms including missile systems last year, while shipments of hard-to-track Russian small weapons have risen since the uprising against Assad started, government defectors say.
In January, the Russian ship Chariot, loaded with arms and ammunition, turned off its radar and sailed quietly to Syria to avoid attracting the attention of world powers increasingly frustrated by Russia and China’s refusal to back U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at ending 11 months of violence.
. . . .
ThomsonReuters shipping data shows at least four cargo ships since December that left the Black Sea port of Oktyabrsk – used by Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport for arms shipments – have headed for or reached the Syrian port of Tartous.
Separately was the Chariot, a Russian ship which docked at the Cypriot port of Limassol during stormy weather in mid-January. It promised to change its destination in accordance with a European Union ban on weapons to Syria but, hours after leaving Limassol, reset its course for Syria.
A Cypriot source said it was carrying a load of ammunition and a European security source said the ship was hauling ammunition and sniper rifles of the kind used increasingly by Syrian government forces against protesters.
Among the weapons provided earlier in the year were sniper rifles, obviously of no use at all in a civil conflict.
But don’t worry! If there are any weapons being shipped, it is because Russia has a contract with Syria to supply them, and we all know that the Russians are nothing if not honor bound to adhere punctiliously to contracts!:
Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin has rejected criticism of the arms sales insisting they are legal and have no influence on the Syria conflict.
“The weapons we may have provided to Syria under various contracts, which were concluded a long time ago, are fully in line with international law and do not contribute to the current armed violence in Syria,” Churkin told reporters on Wednesday.
Yes. I’m sure that the Syrians just put those weapons aside, just to make sure they do not contribute to the current armed violence.
I note that it is quite easy to find numerous articles detailing contracts for small arms and ammunition entered into between Russia and Syria in the 2005-2006 time period: would that count as “a long time ago.”
Of course not all the weapons Russia has supplied to Syria-notably anti-aircraft missile systems and anti-tank weapons systems-have been used by the Assad regime in its attempt to crush the uprising. But it is abundantly clear that since virtually every weapon in the Syrian arsenal is of Russian origin, and that Russia continues to supply weapons, Putin’s claim is a particularly bald-faced lie.
Given Putin’s clear willingness to stand right next to Angela Merkel, and mouth such outrageous untruths-in full knowledge that anyone who has been paying attention knows that they are untruths-should be more than sufficient to convince even the most naive and deluded that Russia will not back away from protecting Assad (and arming his regime) regardless of how many more Houlas there are.