tor missiles 88.
(photo credit: )
Following Israeli complaints that state-of-the-art Russian arms were transferred to Hizbullah, Russia has removed a senior official in charge of arms exports, according to reports reaching Jerusalem.
News that the official has been fired was made public two weeks before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to make a three-day trip to Moscow, and is widely believed to be a gesture from the Kremlin before the visit.
The visit, from October 17-19, will be Olmert's first trip abroad since June, before the abductions of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev and the war in Lebanon.
The issue of Russian-made weaponry in the hands of Hizbullah has been a major topic in bilateral discussions between Moscow and Jerusalem since the end of the war in mid-August, with Israel urging Russia to stop supplying arms to Syria and Iran because some of these weapons ended up in Hizbullah's hands.
Soon after the war, a high-level Israeli delegation went to Moscow to discuss the arms issue. The delegation complained that Iran and Syria passed Russian-made Fagot and Kornet anti-tank missiles on to Hizbullah. These missiles were responsible for killing many of the 119 IDF soldiers who died in the war.
Although Israeli officials left Moscow satisfied that "their message was heard," a few days later Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the Israeli claims were baseless. Ivanov said Israel had provided no evidence of Hizbullah having the Russian-designed missiles, and Russian officials said Moscow maintained strict controls over its weapons sales to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
Nevertheless, The Jerusalem Post has learned that when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came here for a visit on September 7, he informed his Israeli interlocutors of the decision to remove the arms export official. Lavrov also said during meetings here that Russian President Vladimir Putin was particularly angered by the Russian weaponry found in south Lebanon because it contravened promises he had given prime minister Ariel Sharon, with whom he had a close working relationship.