Russian Denial That Cargo Ship Was Transporting Weapons To Syria

The owners of a Russian cargo ship, which was turned back from British waters after its insurance coverage was revoked, have denied that it was involved in the illegal transportation of weapons and attack helicopters to Syria.

Russian denial that cargo ship was transporting weapons to Syria

The Sunday Telegraph reported at the weekend that the MV Alaed was carrying attack helicopters destined for Syria.

The cargo of Mi-25 helicopter gunships was said to have been picked up at the Russian port of Kaliningrad, where the MV Alaed, operated by Femco, a shipping company based on Russia's Sakhalin Island, had docked for servicing and repairs.

However, in a statement given on Wednesday, Femco denied the allegations of illegality, insisting that it would never jeopardise its reputation for "reliability and business integrity".

"Reports about illegal actions of the MC Alaed's owner are inaccurate," read the statement. "The vessel is currently making a regular commercial voyage, in full accordance with international norms and rules."

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 39 people were killed in violence across Syria on Wednesday.

In clashes in the north-western province of Latakia near the border with Turkey, at least 20 government troops and 5 rebels were killed in violence that began on Tuesday evening and continued through to dawn on Wednesday.

Dozens were also reported injured whilst a number of government soldiers were captured by the rebels according to Observatory head, Rami Abdel Rahman.

"The majority died in direct fighting with the rebels, while other soldiers were killed in a rebel attack on two buildings, which the army was using to launch mortar attacks against the Kurdish Mountain," said Abdel Rahman.

Elsewhere, five government troops were killed when a car bomb exploded at their checkpoint in the northwest province of Idlib, whilst three soldiers and two civilians were killed in the town of Kernaz in the central province of Hama.

Clashes were also reported in Damascus, while there was confirmation that a Shiite cleric had been assassinated by unidentified gunmen in Sayyida Zeinab, an area in the south of the city.

Sayyida Zeinab houses a revered Shiite shrine that is visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year.

Anticipated differences over Syria have emerged at the G20 summit in Mexico after Barack Obama told the presidents of Russia and China that Bashar al-Assad could no longer remain in power after the massacres of a large number of civilians.

However Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia's opposition to talk of regime change in Syria. "We believe that nobody has the right to decide for other nations who should be in power and who should not," the Russian leader told reporters.