BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria

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This is hot off the presses, as they say. The Telegraph is reporting 8:34PM BST 18 Jun 2012:

A Russian ship believed to be carrying helicopters and missiles for Syria has been effectively stopped in its tracks off the coast of Scotland after its insurance was cancelled at the behest of the British government.

The British marine insurer Standard Club said it had withdrawn cover from all the ships owned by Femco, a Russian cargo line, including the MV Alaed.

"We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria," the company said in a statement. "We have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage."

British security officials confirmed they had told Standard Club that providing insurance to the shipment was likely to be a breach of European Union sanctions against the Syrian regime.

They said they were continuing to monitor the ship, which has been the subject of a fierce international row since US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week revealed it was adding to the arsenal of weaponry available for Mr Assad to use against rebellious Syrian towns.

"We have various ways of keeping track of this ship and that is what we are doing," a source told The Daily Telegraph.

The MV Alaed picked up its cargo of Mi25 helicopters – known as "flying tanks" – from the Russian port of Kaliningrad, where they had been sent to the state-owned manufacturer Mil's "Factory 150" for servicing and repairs.

They were originally sold to the Syrian government by Moscow, its major arms supplier, at the end of the Soviet era.

The ship headed south through the North Sea towards the English Channel on its way to the Mediterranean and, most likely, the Syrian port of Tartous, also home to a Russian naval base.

But under sanctions announced last year, the EU has banned not only exporting arms to Syria but also providing related services such as insurance.

As first revealed by The Sunday Telegraph at the weekend, the US notified the UK government that the insurance was British last week.

As it neared the Dutch coast, the authorities there also hailed the ship, the security sources said, and it made an abrupt turn, heading towards Scotland. It was last night now off the coast of the Hebrides but with no insurance covering the ship security sources say it may now have to return to port.

In their attempts to bombard rebel towns into submission, Assad regime forces have increasingly brought up helicopters, strafing the towns of Haffa and Rastan last week.

Russia Today, the Russian Federation TV channel and Internet site [TV-Novosti] is now confirming what I first reported here two days ago, namely that Russian troops are headed for Syria. 18 June, 2012, 15:45 they published:

It is being reported that large Russian amphibious naval ships are steaming toward the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russian civilians and naval infrastructure are under threat from ongoing civil disorder.

­"The crews of the Nikolay Filchenkov, Ceasar Kunikov and SB-15 tugboat – together with the marine units they carry – are capable of protecting security of Russian citizens and evacuating a part of the property of the logistics base," a source at the Russian Navy General Staff told Interfax-AVN on Monday.

But according to an officer stationed with the Black Sea Fleet, the Nikolay Filchenkov and Ceasar Kunikov are still sitting in dock in Sevastopol. Moreover, the crew is said to be on “regular service duty” and are under no emergency orders. He pointed out, however, that Russian naval ships must be prepared to dispatch anywhere in the world in 12 hours notice.

As of this hour Russia Today TV is reporting that they have sailed.

Accord to the Black Sea Fleet Information Resource the Nikolay Filchenkov is a large landing ship with a cargo of 300 troops and 1,700 tons including about 20 tanks and various trucks or 40 AFV's. It carries 2 dual 25mmn anti-aircraft guns and one dual 57mm/70 DP. It carries 3 SA-N-5 Grail rocket launchers and 122 mm UMS-73 Grad-M bombardment rocket launchers.

From the same source, the Ceasar Kunikov is also a large landing ship capable of beaching. It has a cargo capacity of 482 tons and normally carries 150 marines in addition to a crew of from 87 to 98. For guns it carries 2 dual 57mm AK-725 DP, and for missiles 4 x 8 Strela (SS-N-3) and 2 122 mm UMS-73 Grad-M bombardment RL.

So if these ships carry only their normal complement of troops that means 450 Russian combat troops, together with Russian armor and heavy weapons are headed to the civil war in Syria. This is in addition to {this is were I found the lead} the Russian cargo ship MV Alaed which is already reportedly in-route with refurbished Russian made Mi25 attack helicopters and missiles. The same Russia Today article confirms, in a backhanded manner, that the helicopters are on their way back to Syria:

Russia quickly extinguished the inflammatory comments, saying it was merely sending to Syria “old, refurbished helicopters” that it had been repaired and were being returned to Damascus as specified under contractual agreement.

It also said:

The Russian Black Sea Fleet's Iman tanker, with an anti-terrorist squad aboard, completed a mission off the coast of Syria in May; that same month, plans for the Moscow missile-carrying cruiser of the Black Sea Fleet to patrol the Syrian coastline was canceled in May.

I found this interesting because Claudius Bombarnac, in two comments to my earlier diary on this question supplied this link of a picture of an old tanker, the Iman with comments like:

It is interesting that the ship bringing in the dreaded "armed Russian troops" is the Iman - a small fuel tanker.


How many "elite units of Russian marines and special forces" can you bring in on this ship? One?

Now I wonder how he knew then to name the Iman and why he failed to mention the anti-terrorist squad on-board.

Here are my related diaries:
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BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
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Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
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Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout