UK halts Russian 'helicopter shipment'
19 June 2012
A Russian cargo ship said to be carrying attack helicopters to Syria is returning to Russia after having its insurance revoked some 50 miles off the coast of Scotland, Foreign Secretary William Hague has confirmed.
MV Alaed was thought to be carrying Mi-25 "Hind D" attack helicopters to Syria following their refurbishment in Russia, although this has not been confirmed.
Shipments of helicopters to the Assad regime were heavily criticised by the US last week, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying their delivery could "dramatically escalate" the 15-month conflict which has left over 10,000 dead.
The ship's insurer withdrew cover for the vessel, meaning it had to stop until it was insured to sail again.
In a statement, insurer The Standard Club said it believed the ship did stop near Scotland's Western Isles before returning to Russia.
"We were informed on Friday evening that the ship might be carrying weapons, in particular attack helicopters, missiles and non-specific munitions, and we are making inquiries to establish what their side of the story is," the statement read.
"There are exclusion clauses in our cover and, for anyone involved in improper or unlawful trade, we can cancel cover. We are investigating whether or not to do so in this case."
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters heading to Syria.
"The foreign secretary made clear to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov when they met on 14 June that all defence shipments to Syria must stop.
"We are working closely with international partners to ensure that we are doing all we can to stop the Syrian regime's ability to slaughter civilians being reinforced through assistance from other countries."