Syria amassed huge arsenal of Russian weapons before uprising

 

After a winter of bloodshed in which President Bashar al-Assad
deployed tanks and rockets to pulverise his own cities, figures
released yesterday showed that Damascus splashed out millions of
dollars both before and during the anti-government uprising in an
effort to develop an enormous arsenal of largely Russian-made
weapons.

Arms deliveries skyrocketed by nearly 600 per cent between 2007 and 2011 compared with the preceding five-year period. As the Syrian people laboured under a faltering economy and Baathist repression, Damascus spent hundreds of millions of dollars on missile systems, air defence facilities and anti-ship rockets.

The vast majority – 72 per cent – of the orders came from Russia. Although all of the shipments involved "war grade" weapons of the type not used on protesters over the past year, surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft systems could potentially be deployed to prevent any future military intervention in Syria.

"They are national defence-type weapons," said Siemon Wezeman from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which compiled the figures. "They would be handy if the Syrian government wanted to keep its airspace free from Arab or other forces."

Britain and other Western governments have repeatedly talked down the idea of a Libya-style attack on President Assad. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Saud bin Faisal al-Saud, came closer than any other government official to advocating foreign military intervention when he said that arming the opposition would be "an excellent idea". Yet so far there have been no concrete steps to initiate the kind of action many Syrian activists have been demanding for months.

Russia has faced criticism for its refusal to back Western efforts to secure a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for Syria's leader to resign, but in a sign that it may be raising the pressure on Assad, the foreign ministry yesterday called on both Damascus and the armed opposition to agree to daily humanitarian truces, backing an initiative from the International Committee of the Red Cross to treat the wounded in the violence-torn country.

Moscow also called for the ICRC to have access to "those detained in Syria for their participation in protests".

But yesterday's arms shipment data also highlighted the close relationship between President Assad and Moscow. Given that virtually all of Moscow's arms sales are processed by the state-owned corporation Rosoboronexport, the Russian treasury has much to gain from a spike in Syrian arms deals.

Last week, Russia's Deputy Defence Minister insisted his government would not halt weapons sales to Damascus. Despite the US and Europe imposing arms embargoes, Anatoly Antonov insisted that Russia's deals with Syria were "perfectly legitimate" and would continue.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future