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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Owner Denies Ship with Syrian Helicopters Changed Route

RIA Novosti

13:12 18/07/2012

ST. PETERSBURG, July 18 (RIA Novosti) - The route of the Russian ship purportedly carrying helicopter gunships to Syria remained unchanged and the vessel is still headed to St. Petersburg, a spokesman for the ship’s owner, Femco, said on Wednesday.

“The ship’s route remains unchanged. It is headed to St. Petersburg where it will arrive either late on July 19 or early on July 20. It all depends on weather conditions,” the spokesman said.

Earlier in the day, a ship location mapping service said the Alaed disappeared from online maps of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking maritime traffic worldwide. The vessel switched off its AIS on Tuesday and has been invisible for more than 12 hours.

A Femco spokesman denied the crew has ever switched off its AIS signal.

“Certain weather conditions can sometimes jam the signal, though it is extremely rare,” he said.

The MV Alaed, sailing under the Curacao flag, had to return to the northern port of Murmansk after its British insurers pulled their coverage as it rounded the coast of Scotland. Femco declined to comment on the nature of the cargo on board.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the MV Alaed was carrying overhauled disassembled helicopters to Syria, not gunships, as claimed by Western media, which said the ship was carrying armaments and ammunition to Syria.

The helicopters became the center of a diplomatic row in June, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claiming Russia was supplying weapons that would be used against civilian protesters.

Femco said in late June the MV Alaed will now operate under the Russian flag, which was necessary “to protect its interests, the security of the ship and its crew, all of whom are Russian citizens.”

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