The Syrian plane intercepted by Turkey on a flight from Moscow was carrying Russian radar parts for Syrian missile defense systems, but not weapons, a Russian newspaper report said yesterday.
The plane was loaded with 12 boxes containing parts for radar systems used in the Syrian army’s missile defence systems, Kommersant quoted sources in the arms export industry as saying, denying accusations by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the cargo included ammunition.
The sources told the newspaper that the cargo needed no special documentation as it posed no risk to the crew of the plane or the aircraft itself.
“This is not a weapon. If a person takes a radio receiver that has been switched off onto the plane then does this pose a threat for the airliner or the passengers?” the source said. “No international laws were violated.”
The spokesman of Russia’s weapons export agency Rosoboronexport Vyacheslav Davidenko denied “there was any cargo belonging to us” on the plane.
The SyrianAir plane flying from Moscow to Damascus was forced to land at Ankara’s Esenboga airport by the Turkish air force. The plane was later allowed to continue to Damascus, but Turkey has held on to the suspect cargo.
Erdogan said the plane was carrying “equipment and ammunition” destined for the Syrian defense ministry that had apparently been provided by Rosoboronexport.
Kommersant also quoted sources as saying that Russia’s Federal Security Service could open an inquiry over how the information that the plane was carrying a sensitive cargo leaked out to the Turkish authorities.
“The Turkish authorities sent out two F-16 fighters to escort the jet so they most likely knew about the cargo that was being carried. They would not have done this if they had not been sure,” the newspaper report said.
Kommersant said the intelligence could have been supplied by the US secret services and it could not be ruled out that the original leak was the fault of the Syrian side.
Syria on Thursday accused Erdogan of “lying” after he said the cargo seized on a Syrian passenger plane intercepted on its way from Moscow carried weapons.
“The plane’s cargo was documented in detail on the bill of loading and the plane did not carry any illegal material or any weapons,” it said.
State television also carried a statement from the information ministry defying Erdogan to show the alleged weapons seized on the plane.
The US threw its backing behind Turkey on Thursday as new tensions flared with Syria’s top ally, Russia, when Ankara forced a Syrian passenger jet to land for inspections.
Turkish officials said the SyriaAir plane, which took off from Moscow, was carrying arms destined for the Syrian defense ministry.
“We strongly support the government of Turkey’s decision to inspect the plane,” US Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“Any transfer of any military equipment to the Syrian regime at this time is very concerning and we look forward to hearing more from the Turkish side when they get to the bottom of what they found,” she said.
Erdogan said the SyrianAir plane was carrying “equipment and ammunition” destined for the Syrian defense ministry that had apparently been provided by Russia’s arms export agency.
Erdogan added that the confiscated material — which he said came from a Russian military supplier — was still being meticulously studied by the Turkish authorities.