What might have been in that ammo crate the BBC found in Aleppo, and why it matters
On Monday (October 8, 2012), the BBC published a story that starts like this:
BBC News has uncovered evidence that appears to suggest that weapons intended for the Saudi military have been diverted to Syrian rebels.
The first picture, above this post, shows the label on one of the three crates the BBC team discovered “in a base being used by rebel fighters in the city of Aleppo”.
Let’s try to understand what the label on the crate could mean.
Some things are pretty clear: it comes from Ukraine. It is part of a contract dating from the 17th of February, 2010. The content of the crate was sold to the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, Royal Saudi Land Forces, Saudi Arabia. This is crate number 990 on a total of 1429 sold.
“The crates of ammunition found in an Aleppo mosque were made by the Ukrainian firm Dastan, which specialises in naval weapons and missile complexes”, says the BBC on its website. Actually, according to the label, Dastan would be more like the intermediary in the deal. LCW, in Luhansk, Ukraine, is the plant that produced the content of the crates.
LCW produces a variety of small arms ammunition. Although the BBC was not allowed to see the content of the crates, the chances are quite high that they were ammunition crates.
On the second picture (scroll right or left), above this post, is the headstamp of a 7.62x39mm cartridge seen in September 2012 in a school used as a base by Syrian insurgents in the town of ad-Dana, near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Syria. The cartridge photographed was made by the same plant, LCW, in the same year, 2010.
What could it mean? It is impossible to draw conclusions on the base of a single sample. We lack information. What do we have? On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, Oleksandr Dykusarov, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman, declared that “Ukraine did not and does not export such products to Syria.” It is thus rather safe to imply that the cartridge we saw in Syria was provided by a foreign country as well. It was made in the same plant, and on the same production year, 2010, but it might have been exported to another country than Saudi Arabia.
This simple cartridge, though, adds to the evidence that foreign countries are diverting weapons and ammunition to support the Syrian insurgents, who are still fighting, after 18 months, against an overpowering foe (links in French, French and Dutch) which appears to having received arms supplies from abroad, as well.
Countries, including thus Saudi Arabia, diverting Ukrainian ammunition to a third party, might fall under the terms of the criterion 7 of the legally biding European Common Position on Export of Military Technology and Equipment, which states that, before issuing arms export licenses, the exporting EU member states have to assess the “existence of a risk that the military technology or equipment will be diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions”.
Nic R. Jenzen-Jones, an Australian small arms/ammunition specialist which assisted greatly during previous research, has more information, and it’s fascinating: here.
Photos: ammo crate by BBC. Headstamp by the author.