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Russia gives Beirut port blast satellite images to Lebanon to help determine cause

In meeting with counterpart, Lavrov says deadly explosion ‘very powerful political irritant for Lebanon’; Russian space agency captured pictures of port before and after blast

The scene the day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, August 5, 2020. (Bilal Hussein/AP)
The scene the day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, August 5, 2020. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow sent the Lebanese government satellite images from the day of last year’s deadly Beirut port blast in an effort to help with the investigation.

In a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bou Habib, in Moscow, Lavrov said Moscow had transferred pictures prepared by the country’s space agency Roscosmos.

Images that capture the port before and after the blast should help determine the cause of the explosion, Lavrov said during a press conference after their meeting.

“We hope that Lebanese specialists will answer this question that is really becoming a very powerful political irritant for Lebanon,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov also said they discussed the “possible participation” of Russian companies in the reconstruction of Beirut infrastructure that was damaged in the blast.

In August 2020, hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the Port of Beirut detonated, sending a powerful explosion across the Lebanese capital that killed more than 215 people.

The ammonium nitrate, originally on a course to Mozambique, was diverted to Beirut in 2013 and stored in the port ever since. According to an FBI investigation, only one-fifth of the original amount of ammonium nitrate remained in port on the day of the blast. The missing material has raised suspicions that it was diverted prior to last year’s explosion, possibly for use in explosives manufacture by the terror group Hezbollah.

Protesters join families of the August 4 victims during a symbolic funeral procession from Beirut port on August 8, 2021, days after the first anniversary of a vast dockside explosion that left more than 200 people dead. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

The Lebanese judge leading investigations into the blast was forced to stop his probe three times following lawsuits from ex-ministers suspected of negligence.

The judge had requested the cooperation of several countries, including France and the United States, to obtain satellite images from the day of the blast.

In addition to the explosion, the Russian and Lebanese ministers discussed the issue of refugees that have fled Syria since 2011 to neighboring countries, including Lebanon.

Lavrov spoke of the possibility of organizing an international conference on the issue in Lebanon, host to over 1.5 million Syrians.

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