Despite the EU sanctions, Russian tankers have alleged smuggled jet fuel to Syria through EU waters and thus through Cypriot and Greek ports. According to an exclusive Reuters report based on anonymous intelligence sources, “at least two Russian-flagged ships made deliveries – which contravene EU sanctions – via Cyprus,” while the “Russian-flagged vessels visited Cypriot and Greek ports before delivering fuel to Syria.”
“Publicly available ship-tracking data confirms that at least two Russian tankers, the Yaz and Mukhalatka, made one trip each between September and October, stopping in Greece and Limassol in Cyprus. In Greece, the Yaz stopped at Agioi Theodoroi port but it is unclear where the Mukhalatka stopped.
From Cyprus, they sailed towards Syria and Lebanon. Their tracking transponders were switched off near the coasts of those countries, according to the data.”
According to Reuters, the Russian defence ministry said EU sanctions on fuel supplies to Syria could not be applied to the Russian air group in that country.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs and security policy said the implementation of EU restrictions lay with member states.
Greece’s foreign ministry referred questions to the shipping ministry, which was not immediately available to comment.
One intelligence source told Reuters that the Yaz was investigated by Greek authorities for possible EU sanctions violations during its stay in the port of Agioi Theodoroi in September, but that it was allowed to leave bound for Turkey.
The Greek coastguard service said in September that it had investigated the Yaz for possible breaches of EU regulations regarding Syria and had pressed charges against the ship’s captain. A spokesman did not give further details about the investigation when contacted by Reuters.
One coastguard official said separately the captain was charged and released pending trial.
The Cypriot government said its authorities had not approved the docking of any Russian tankers carrying jet fuel bound for Syria.
EU Council Regulation 1323/2014, introduced two years ago, bans any supply of jet fuel to Syria from the EU territories, whether or not the fuel originated in the European Union.
Over one two-week period in October, Russian tankers delivered 20,000 metric tonnes of jet fuel to Syria – worth around $9 million at today’s world prices – via the European Union, according to the EU government intelligence source.
A day earlier, Reuters reported that it was Marietje Schaake, a Member of the European Parliament for the Dutch Democratic Party, who submitted a priority question to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini in response to the report.
Schaake asked Mogherini in a written submission whether she was aware of such fuel deliveries, and if EU member states’ territory was used in contravention of sanctions.
PS Schaake has been co-founder of INOVO BV, a Turkish company that has being also doing business with Trump’s National Security adviser Michael Flynn.