A Russian-owned ship reportedly carrying weapons to Syria docked in Tartus on Thursday despite assurances it would change destination, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“The Turkish navy has learned that the Russian ship MV Chariot docked at the Syrian port today,” the paper said, citing Turkish Foreign Ministry official Selcuk Unal.
Russia maintains a Soviet-era naval maintenance site near Tartus, which is the country’s only military foothold on the Mediterranean.
The cargo ship MV Chariot, flying the St. Vincent and Grenadines flag, was en route from St. Petersburg to the Syrian port of Latakia carrying from 35 to 60 tons of ammunition and explosives meant for the Syrian Defense Ministry.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the ship carried a “dangerous cargo,” but did not elaborate. According to the documents, the cargo sender was the Russian state arms trader Rosoboronexport.
The ship's initial route lay in the waters of Turkey, not an EU member, so there was no violation of the relevant EU restrictions on Syria. The ship, however, was forced to dock for refueling at the Cypriot port of Limassol on Tuesday.
Cypriot authorities boarded the ship for a document check. They also tried to examine the cargo, but could not open four containers it was stored in because of “confined space,” the Greek Cypriot Foreign Ministry said in a statement. They, however, ruled that the ship carried “dangerous cargo.”
In about an hour, it was allowed to leave “after the ship decided to change its destination and not go to Syria,” Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said.