Entries in Helicopters (5)


Syria-Bound Helicopters Unloaded at Russian Port: Report

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Three refurbished Russian attack helicopters have been removed from the Alaed, a transport ship that was delivering them to Syria, the Russian news agency Interfax reported on Friday.

Interfax quoted an unnamed source saying that the trio of Mi-25 helicopters had been offloaded at the port of Baltiisk, in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

“Three helicopters were unloaded from the Alaed during a brief stay at Baltiisk.  The helicopters are likely to be moved to the 150th Aircraft Repair Plant in the town of Lyublino-Novoye outside Kaliningrad, where they will be kept,  pending other decisions,” the source told Interfax.

The Interfax report did not say when the helicopters had been removed from the ship.  Earlier reports indicated that the Alaed had departed Baltiisk on July 18, sailing in a northwestern direction.

The ship’s owner told Interfax that the ship would sail to St. Petersburg, where it would take on additional cargo, and then continue on to the Far East.

Last week, Russia said it would freeze arms sales and deliveries to Syria while the conflict there escalates.

The move comes after strong international criticism of Russia’s continued arms relationship with Syria.  Syrian opposition groups have accused the government of using helicopters to attack rebel and civilian targets.

Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly criticized Russia’s decision to return the Soviet-era helicopters, which had been sent back to Russia for repairs.

Russia is Syria’s largest arms dealer, accounting for billions of dollars in sales in recent years.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would require the Pentagon to end a $171 million contract with Russia’s arms export monopoly, Rosoboronexport, because of Moscow’s continued arms trade with Syria.  The contract was to purchase helicopters for the Afghan army.

Sponsors of the bill said that Russia sold Syria $1 billion worth of arms last year, including explosives, sniper rifles, ammunition and other weapons that could be used in the conflict.  Russia has insisted the arms it sells to Syria, such as air defense missile systems, could not be used against civilians.

Russia has so far rebuffed Western pleas to sever ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally.  On Thursday, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have extended the U.N.’s observer mission in Syria, but also threaten additional sanctions on the Assad government.

On Friday, Russian officials said they would support a Pakistani draft resolution that would extend the observer mission by 45 days. The mission’s mandate expires on Friday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia Admits Attack Choppers Aboard Syria-Bound Ship

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Russia has confirmed for the first time that the cargo ship MV Alaed, which is now headed back to Russia, was carrying refurbished Russian attack helicopters and components for an anti-aircraft defense system that were bound for Syria.

"The ship was carrying air defense systems, which can only be used to repel foreign aggression, and not against peaceful demonstrators, and yes -- it was carrying three refurbished helicopters," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the Russian radio station Echo Moskvy.

The Alaed had to turn back earlier this week as it traveled around Scotland after its British insurer pulled its coverage following pressure from the British government because it was believed to be carrying weapons.

The ship is scheduled to arrive Saturday in the Russian port of Murmansk, which is near its far northern border with Finland, where it will drop its Curacao flag and re-register as a Russian ship.

The Mi-25 helicopters were sold to Syria in the waning days of the Soviet Union and had been sent back to Russia for repairs.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained publicly that Russia was sending the aircraft back to Syria despite reports that the Syrian government had stepped up their use in attacks that have killed civilians.

Russia has come under international criticism for continuing its arms sales to Syria despite the increasing violence over the past year. The Kremlin has argued that there is no arms embargo prohibiting such transfers, though that is true in part because Russia has blocked measures that would impose one. It says the weapons it is providing to Syria are only defensive ones that could not be used in a civilian conflict.

In his interview with Ekho Mosky, Lavrov said it was "completely false" to charge that Russia had "delivered helicopters which were used against demonstrators." He said the choppers aboard the Alaed were disassembled. "They need to be rebuilt, taking around three months."

Still, weapons like the Russian air defense systems could deter international intervention, which Russia remains staunchly opposed to.

Syria is one of Russia's biggest arms clients, with existing contracts worth between $5-6 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms transfers.

Russia is also one of the largest arms exporters in the world. On Thursday a Kremlin aide said that Russia expects to sell about $12 billion worth of weapons in 2012, up from $11 billion last year.

Numerous Russian news reports say that Russia is preparing to send at least two navy ships to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia maintains a ramshackle base and refueling depot. The ships are reportedly carrying hundreds of Russian marines, which would secure the base and potentially evacuate Russian citizens from Syria, a sign of the deteriorating security situation in the country. Last weekend the United Nations suspended its monitoring mission in the country because of security concerns.

On Thursday the Russian Foreign Ministry and its embassy in Damascus denied reports that Russia is preparing to evacuate Russian citizens.

On Wednesday the Russian Defense Ministry denied separate Russian news reports that a third ship, from its Baltic Fleet, was also preparing to travel to Syria to aid in the mission.

Russia remains one of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's few remaining backers, and use of the Syrian port of Tartus gives Russia's navy reach into the Mediterranean Sea. Recently, however, the Kremlin has shown signs of impatience with its longtime ally, including reports this week that Russia may finally be willing to help transition Assad from power. Russia has denied that it is shielding Assad. It insists that no foreign power can remove him from power, saying that can only be determined by the Syrian people.

Russia is organizing an international conference of influential countries that aims to find an end to the violence in Syria, which has gone on for over a year and according to the United Nations has claimed over 10,000 lives. RIA Novosti reported on Thursday that the conference would take place on June 30 in Geneva.

The United States has been skeptical of Russia's plans to invite Iran, which it sees more as part of the problem rather than the solution.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hillary Clinton Charges Russia of Supplying Syria with Attack Helicopters

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration has accused Moscow of providing attack helicopters to Syria to battle opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

In a fiery denouncement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a think-tank in Washington on Tuesday, "We are concerned by the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically."

If the reports turn out to be true, this would bolster Clinton's earlier assertion that Russia has been "propping up" al-Assad's government while at the same time, claiming to help find a peaceful solution to the crisis entering its 16th month.

Even as the Pentagon could not confirm the State Department's information, Clinton told the Brookings Institute, "There's no doubt that the onslaught continues, the use of heavy artillery and the like.  We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued arms shipments to Syria."

America's top envoy expressed doubt about Russia's intentions in the conflict, saying, "They have from time to time said that we shouldn't worry, that everything they're shipping is unrelated to their actions internally.  That's patently untrue."

Later, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton is "concerned about helicopters on the way.  That's a different matter than whether there are already Soviet-made helicopters or Russian-made helicopters that are being used by the regime."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Pilots Believe They Crossed into Pakistan, Prompting Firefight (file photo)(ISLAMABAD) -- NATO helicopter pilots may be taking responsibility for the exchange of fire that broke out between them and Pakistani troops on the ground earlier this week.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez told ABC News that the pilots believe they crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan on Tuesday, violating Pakistani air space and prompting soldiers at a nearby post to fire at the aircraft.  The pilots said they had been under fire all day from insurgents along the border and might have accidently crossed over into Pakistan.

The incident in North Waziristan on Tuesday left two Pakistani troops injured.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NATO Choppers, Pakistani Troops Exchange Fire Near Afghan Border (file photo)(ISLAMABAD) -- An exchange of fire between NATO helicopters and Pakistani soldiers in North Waziristan Tuesday left two Pakistani troops injured and questions as to why the firing took place.

According to the Pakistani Army, the helicopters crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan, prompting soldiers at a nearby post to fire at the aircraft for violating Pakistani air space.

However, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it received fire from across the border -- while the choppers were still in Afghanistan.  A U.S. military official said the helicopters did not return fire until they were shot at for a second time.

The same U.S. military official said ISAF is checking equipment on board the helicopters to see if they crossed the border at any time during the incident.

The Pakistani Army has lodged a complaint and is requesting a flag meeting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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