A Russian-owned ship reportedly carrying ammunition to Syria was allowed to leave Cyprus after giving assurances it would switch course, the island nation’s officials said on Wednesday.
The cargo ship, flying the St. Vincent and Grenadines flag, was en route from St. Petersburg to the Syrian port of Latakia when it was forced to dock at a Cypriot port for refueling on Tuesday following bad weather.
“It has been decided the vessel will be released after the ship decided to change its destination and will not go to Syria,” Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said.
The company managing the ship, St. Petersburg-based Westberg Ltd, said that Cypriot authorities had not actually held the ship.
"The ship ran out of fuel, so it docked at a port. The Cypriot authorities did not hold it. They came on board and checked documents, it took about an hour. They got the documents and released the ship. There were no delays,” a company spokesman said.
The spokesman said the cargo sender was the Russian state arms trader Rosoboronexport.
"According to the documents, the cargo sender is Rosoboronexport, but we do not have direct contacts with them, the broker is the Balchart company, which leased the vessel. The ship is time-chartered not only for this journey,”
Rosoboronexport declined to comment on the information.
The Foreign Ministry said the ship carried a “dangerous cargo,” but that it did not violate the EU arms embargo on Syria.
“It was established that there was no violation of the relevant EU restrictions on Syria,” the ministry said in a statement.
Cypriot media said the ship, named by the authorities as the M/V Chariot and owned by the St. Petersburg firm Westberg Ltd, was carrying from 35 to 60 tons of ammunition and explosives meant for the Syrian Defense Ministry.
The Westberg Ltd spokesman said Chariot left the port of St. Petersburg in December, flying the flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He said that his company had no information about the cargo.
"The cargo type is 'dangerous', it is transported in containers, we know only the cargo’s category,” the spokesman said.
In July last year, seized Iranian ammunition exploded near Cyprus’s biggest power station, killing 13 people.