MOSCOW, July 28 (Reuters) - Russia warned on Saturday that it would not cooperate with European Union sanctions requiring EU governments to search vessels suspected of carrying weapons into Syria, a defiant stance that is likely to spark anger in the West.
EU governments agreed the new embargo rules on Monday in an effort to prevent arms from reaching Syria, where 16 months of violence that Western nations blame mostly on the government has killed more than 18,000 people by some estimates.
Russia, which has blocked efforts to threaten the government with U.N. Security Council sanctions and has criticised Western embargoes, said it does “not intend to take any part in the measures to implement the EU decisions aimed against Syria.”
“We ... will not consider appeals and give consent to searches of vessels sailing under the Russian flag, nor to the application of other restrictive measures to them,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
Russia has faced sharp Western criticism over arms deliveries to the Syrian government. President Vladimir Putin said last month that Moscow was not supplying any weapons that could be used in a civil conflict.
A cargo ship Russia said was carrying three repaired helicopters and air defence systems to Syria turned back toward Russia last month when its London-based insurance company withdrew coverage.
Russian officials subsequently said the cargo ship’s Curacao flag would be replaced by a Russian one and the vessel was initially reported to have headed toward Syria again, but Russia’s Interfax news agency reported last week that the helicopters had been off-loaded in Russia.
In January, sources in Russia and Cyprus said a Russian-operated ship carrying ammunition reached Syria after being temporarily halted during a refuelling stop in Cyprus.