Russia has airlifted to Syria 75 vehicles and other equipment to help in the multinational operation to remove and destroy the country’s chemical weapons, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
In a report to President Vladimir Putin, Shoigu said Russian aircraft delivered 50 Kamaz trucks and 25 Ural armoured trucks to the Syrian port city of Latakia on December 18-20 along with other equipment, state-run news agency RIA reported.
“The Defence Ministry has very swiftly implemented actions to deliver to Syria equipment and materiel to provide for the removal of Syrian chemical weapons and their destruction,” Shoigu was quoted as saying on Monday.
Syria has agreed to abandon it chemical weapons under a deal proposed by Russia to avert potential US military action after a deadly August 21 sarin gas attack the US blamed on President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Damascus agreed to transport the “most critical” chemicals, including around 20 tons of mustard nerve agent, out of the northern port of Latakia by December 31 to be safely destroyed abroad away from the war zone.
Western powers had baulked at Syria’s request for military transport equipment to transport chemical weapons material to Latakia because of concerns it could be used to fight Assad’s opponents in the conflict or kill civilians.
Russia has been a major seller of conventional weapons to Syria and has given Assad crucial support during the conflict, blocking attempts to punish with sanctions and saying his exit must not be a precondition for a peace process.
Last week, Russia’s ambassador to Damascus said his country had sent 10 planes to Latakia to help with the destruction operation.
Syrian government forces took control of a key highway connecting Damascus to the coast earlier this month, but the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has voiced concern the deadline could be missed.