UNITED NATIONS - A Russian cargo ship that Western officials say was heavily laden with weapons for the government of Syria docked at the Syrian port of Tartus last weekend, a rights group said on Thursday."Today's updated shipping databases show that the Professor Katsman did in fact dock in the port of Tartus on May 26, 2012 before heading to Piraeus, Greece," Sadia Hameed of Human Rights First told Reuters.
Western officials confirmed her remarks, adding that they understood the ship had been carrying arms for the government of Syria, which for 14 months has been using its security forces to attack an increasingly militarized opposition.A spokesman for Russia's UN mission said he would look into the issue.Hameed said that Human Rights First had been tracking the ship from May 25-27 and discovered "a window of time on May 26 when the ship's transponder appears to have shut off."Syria is one of Russia's top weapons customers. The United States and European Union have suggested the UN Security Council should impose an arms embargo and other UN sanctions on Syria for its 14-month assault on a pro-democracy opposition determined to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.But Russia, with the support of fellow veto power China, has prevented the council from imposing any UN sanctions on Syria and has refused to halt arms sales to Damascus.