* Russia to ask Turkey for explanation of incident
* Turkey intercepted plane en route from Moscow to Damascus
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, Oct 11 Moscow on Thursday accused Ankara
of endangering Russian lives after Turkish fighter jets
intercepted a Syrian airplane on route from Moscow to Damascus
which Russia's arms exports agency said was not carrying any of
Turkish military jets escorted the Damascus-bound Airbus
A-320, carrying about 30 passengers from Moscow, into Ankara
airport late on Wednesday after Turkey said it had received
intelligence that the plane had military supplies onboard.
Some of the cargo was seized in Turkey before the passenger
jet was allowed to continue its trip. No details were given of
what was taken off the plane.
"We had no cargo on that airplane. We always deliver our
weapons in full compliance with international norms," said
Vyacheslav Davidenko, spokesman for Russia's monopoly arms
"Sending weapons on a passenger airplane breaks about every
law there is on weapons exports," he said.
Russia has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's
staunchest allies, blocking three U.N. Security Council
resolutions aimed at piling pressure on him while selling his
armed forces nearly $1 billion in arms last year.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said it was demanding an
explanation from Turkish authorities over the plane's detention,
saying Turkey had refused to grant Russian diplomatic staff
access to 17 Russian citizens onboard during the eight hours
that the flight was held up.
"The Russian side is insisting on an explanation of the
reasons for such actions by the Turkish authorities," the
ministry said in a statement. It said that "the lives and safety
of the passengers were placed under threat" by the incident.
The statement also said the Russian passengers were given no
food and not allowed to enter the airport terminal but were only
allowed to step off the plane and onto the tarmac occasionally.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said it had received no
query from Russia about the plane's interception.
Yelena Kara-Sal, a top Russian consular official, said the
cargo seized by the Turkish authorities was not of Russian
origin, the Interfax news agency reported.
"Right now there is no discussion that the cargo is of
Russian origin. The workers of the consulate will contact local
authorities within a day for an explanation of the details,"
An arms industry source said Moscow had not stopped its arms
exports to Damascus, despite mixed signals from Russia about
whether it has continued to supply Syria with weapons since the
conflict between Assad's forces and rebels has escalated.
"If we needed to send any kind of military-technical
equipment or arms it would have been carried out properly and
not through any illegal means, certainly not on a civilian
aircraft," the source said, according to Interfax.
President Vladimir Putin said in June that Russia does not
send Syria weapons that could be used in a civil conflict.
A Russian-operated ship carrying ammunition was stopped and
searched in Cyprus in January. The ship reached Syria with the
cargo days after promising the destination would not be Syria