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May 13, 2013

New Document Details Syria’s Request for Russian Arms

Weapons Requested from Russian Dealer Could Be Used for Prolonged, Offensive Attacks

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today released a private letter from the Army Supply Bureau of the High Command of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) to the Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport. The letter appears to show new orders for rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, mortor rounds, ammunition and other goods the Syrian Army needs to carry out its ongoing operations against civilians.

The organization notes that this newly disclosed letter fuels ongoing concerns about Russia’s continuing role in enabling the Assad regime’s atrocities, despite repeated assertions by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Russia is merely filling commitments from previous contracts for defensive weapons only.  The relationship between the SAR and Rosoboronexport also raises concerns about the United States’ own relationship with Rosoboronexport.  When Secretary of State John Kerry sees Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm tomorrow, Human Rights First calls on him to raise the meaning of this order.

“Russia can’t have it both ways.  It can either be a broker for the peace process or it can enable Assad to continue his murderous attacks on civilians and stock up for a longer war,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed.

According to Human Rights First, the types of weapons and supplies requested in the letter from the Syrian Army to Rosoboronexport are consistent with supplies needed to carry on a sustained military effort and replenish military equipment caches. These types of transfers from Russia to Syria were examined in Human Rights First’s recently released reportThe Enablers of the Syrian Conflict: How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria and its accompanying interactive website.

The United States has also drawn criticism for its own dealings with Rosoboronexport.  Last year, Congress passed an amendment (section 1277) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13 NDAA) that expressly prohibited the use of U.S. funds to enter into any contracts or agreements with Rosoboronexport. The FY13 NDAA was enacted in January.  In spite of the intent of the law, the U.S. Army has invoked a waiver authority and has notified Congress that it intends to enter into a new contract with Rosoboronexport to procure 20 additional helicopters for the Afghan military.

“It is a challenge to track the entities that supply weapons and other material resources needed to sustain atrocities, but our research has shown that Russia is a known enabler of the Assad regime. This request to Rosoboronexport would be in line with the types of support Rosoboronexport is suspected of providing,” concluded Hameed.

For more information or to speak with Hameed, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.