UPDATE 2:56PM PST: In this fast developing story, Russia is claiming that stopping the Russian frieghter with combat helocopters headed for Syria is spoiling a Russian neogiated peace that was just about to break out in Syria. On 20 June, 2012, 00:34, just minutes ago, Russia Today published:
US helicopter con puts Russia-brokered Syria solution on iceThe article goes on to complain that "these were just old helicopters repaired in Russia," but does confirm the main point that the 16 Mi25 helicopters, we now have a number, had been refurbished in Russia and were being sent back to Syria. According to the Russia Today article Assad is only believed to have 30 or so of the Mi25 "flying tanks" to the Russian shipload would more than double is inventory of the deadly crafts
Washington manipulated information about a Russian cargo vessel stopped near Scotland, misleading the media in order to pressure Russia, probably to establish some kind of no-fly zone over Syria, analyst Vasily Kashin told RT.
The move threatens to stall negotiations between Russia and Western powers over a solution to the Syrian conflict.
On Tuesday, a UK-based marine insurer withdrew the insurance of Russias MV Alaed, forcing it to take a course back to Russia.
This just in from U.S News & World Reports:
Pentagon: Russia Recalls Attack Helicopter Shipment to Syria
By John T. Bennett June 19, 2012
A Russian vessel transporting military helicopters meant for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military has reversed course and appears headed back to its home nation, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
As that shipment of attack copters is returning to Russia, the Pentagon said Moscow is preparing to send three warships to Syria--one more than initially revealed.
It was not immediately clear why the Russian ship had reversed course, but U.S. officials have been pressing their Russian counterparts to stop arming Syrian rebel fighters. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that U.S. officials have pressed their Russian counterparts to stop sending the attack helicopters, which human rights activists say aid in "crimes against humanity."
The Associated Press is reporting the same story:
LONDON -- A Russian-operated ship said to be carrying military helicopters to Syria appears to have turned back after its British insurer removed coverage for the vessel, U.K. officials said Tuesday.
Britain's Foreign Office said the ship, the MV Alaed, changed course in Europe after news reports emerged about its alleged contents. Earlier, the Foreign Office confirmed it was aware that a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters was heading to Syria.
The ship has "turned back now apparently toward Russia," Foreign Secretary William Hague told British lawmakers in Parliament. The vessel appeared to have been avoiding UK territorial waters and EU territorial waters, his ministry added.
The news came after the U.K.-based insurer Standard Club said it removed insurance coverage for the ship owner when it became aware it was carrying munitions, a clear breach of its rules.
Footage purportedly filmed in the town of 'Azaz outside of Aleppo on March 25, 2012. It depicts a military helicopter firing rockets at the town.
Last week, before the put their work on hold, the UN monitors confirmed that Assad was using combat helicopters against the uprising. Reuters report June 11, 2012:
U.N. says Syrian helicopters fire on rebel strongholdsHere is another recent report on Assad's use of helicopter gunships, this is what Russian is trying to help him do. From ZeeNews, June 12, 2012:
By Dominic Evans
BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.N. monitors said Syrian helicopters fired on rebel strongholds north of Homs on Monday and called for "immediate and unfettered access" to conflict zones where they had heard many women and children were trapped.
International mediator Kofi Annan also said he was gravely concerned about violence in Homs and in Haffeh, a mainly Sunni Muslim town near the Mediterranean coast, where the U.S. State Department said it feared a "potential massacre".
"UN observers reported heavy fighting in Rastan and Talbiseh, north of (Homs), with artillery and mortar shelling, as well as firing from helicopters, machine guns and smaller arms," U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said in a statement.
It was the first time the U.N. monitors have verified repeated allegations by activists that Assad's forces have fired from helicopters in the military crackdown on rebels. Syria's government is the only force in the conflict equipped with helicopters.
The observers "also received reports of a large number of civilians, including women and children trapped inside (Homs) and are trying to mediate their evacuation," Ghosheh said.
Damascus: Syrian military forces fired indiscriminately from helicopters on rebel stronghold towns Tuesday killing scores of innocent civilians across Syria, which saw United Nations Envoy Kofi Annan expressing grave concern over the intensifying clashes.
Government helicopter gunships strafed rebel positions in Al-Heffa, as well as the opposition stronghold of Rastan, in the central Syrian province of Homs.
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