Introduction – June 24, 2012
Last week, the Curacao-registered MV Alaed, was forced to turn back to the Russian port of Murmansk after the British government compelled its London-based insurers to withdraw coverage of the vessel.
What the report below only alludes to however, is that apart from refurbished helicopters the MV Alaed was also thought to be delivering more Russian air defence systems.
The prospect of Syria augmenting its arsenal with more potent air defence systems such as the Pantsyr-S2, is thought to have prompted David Cameron to consider sending Special Forces to seize the ship; before deciding to pressurise its London-based insurance brokers into revoking the ship’s insurance instead.
Days later the potency of Russia’s air defence systems was displayed when Syria downed a Turkish jet fighter. The weapon responsible is reported to have been the Russian Pantsyr-S2.
Modern Russian air defence systems would present a formidable obstacle should Western powers decide to launch an air campaign as they did against Libya.
The fact that Russia has decided to redeliver the arms so promptly lends weight to speculation that it is preparing to counter an air campaign against Assad’s regime, following repeated calls for a Western imposed no-fly zone over Syria.
Russian arms ship to make second attempt to deliver helicopters to Syria
Adrian Blomfield – telegraph.co.uk June 24, 2012
The MV Alaed, which is carrying helicopter gunships and air defence systems on board, will put to sea within days, military officials in Moscow were quoted as saying.
The vessel, sailing under the flag of the Caribbean island of Curacao, returned to Murmansk after its insurance cover was withdrawn at the behest of the Government. Russia said it feared that British forces would attempt to storm the ship, a step David Cameron is said to have contemplated.
Throwing down an unmistakable challenge to the Prime Minister, Moscow said the Alaed would sail again, this time under a Russian flag – meaning that any attempt to board it could trigger an international incident. It will also be accompanied by at least one other vessel, although not a military one.
The efficiency of Russian-made air defence systems was potently displayed on Friday, when Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet. The example could serve to deter the West from risking its own aircraft in a military intervention, analysts said.
Calls for international action have grown as the violence in Syria has worsened. Nearly 700 people were killed last week, according to pro-opposition human rights groups in Syria, making it one of the bloodiest since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 15 months ago. More than 60 are said to have died on Sunday.
More than 150 government soldiers are thought to be among the dead. In a sign that morale in the armed forces is suffering, the Syrian opposition reported the defection of more than 30 soldiers after a rebel attack on an artillery battalion near the city of Aleppo. The defectors took their weapons with them, they said.
Last week, a pilot in the Syrian Air Force — considered the wing of the armed forces most loyal to Mr Assad — defected after flying his fighter jet to Jordan.