Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dead Russian reporter was investigating arms sales to Iran, Syria

posted at

A Russian reporter who died after falling out of a window was investigating sales of weapons by Russia to Syria and Iran, his newspaper Kommersant said Tuesday.
Ivan Safronov had told his newspaper that he had "received information" about the sale of Sukhoi-34 fighter jets to Syria and S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran via Belarus.

The business daily said the arms were being sold "via Belarus to avoid the west accusing Russia of arming rogue states". Safronov, a former colonel, specialised in writing about the army and space.
Russian prosecutors on Monday opened an investigation into the "incitement to suicide" of Safronov.
But his newspaper has dismissed claims that he committed suicide, while Russian journalists union the SJR said Tuesday it might conduct its own inquiry.
"From what we know already it is clear it was not suicide," the union's Secretary General Igor Yakovenko told Moscow Echo radio.
"The chances that it was a murder linked to the exercise of his profession are very high," he added.
Kommersant said Safronov had called from a major Middle East arms fair in Abu Dhabi in late February to say that he had "irrefutable confirmation" of the sales.
On his return to Moscow he had spoken to his colleagues of the "signature by Russia and Syria of contracts for the Pantsir CI anti-aircraft system, Mig-29 fighter jets and Iskander tactical missiles," it said.
However, he told his colleagues he could not write the story immediately because he had been warned about the risk of an international scandal and an inquiry by the FSB security service for divulging secrets.
He did not say that this amounted to pressure.
In May 2006 the British defence magazine Jane's had reported a contract had been signed for the sale of S-300 SP missiles from Russia to Belarus, with the aim of selling arms indirectly to Iran.
At the time the Russian defence ministry had said that Belarus would not sell S-300 missiles to Iran.
According to Kommersant, two young students last week heard the noise of a falling body, saw Safronov lying on the snow and called an ambulance, which refused to come as it had "no time to go picking up every drunkard".
The two girls said they heard no sounds of a struggle and saw no-one leaving the apartment house after the fall.

No comments: