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As death toll hits 17,000, Russia suspends new arms sales to Syria

Military official says only spare parts for existing equipment will be provided to Assad until calm returns

A destoryed Syrian Army tank. Russia has indicated it will not provide Assad with any new weapons. (photo credit: CC BY/FreedomHouse,Flickr)
A destoryed Syrian Army tank. Russia has indicated it will not provide Assad with any new weapons. (photo credit: CC BY/FreedomHouse,Flickr)

MOSCOW (AP) — A senior Russian official said that Moscow will not sign new weapons contracts with Syria until the situation there calms down.

Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy chief of the Russian military and technical cooperation agency, told Russian news agencies on Wednesday at the sidelines of the Farnborough airshow south-west of London that Russia will continue, however, with previously agreed exports.

He said that so far Russia has been providing Syria’s army with spare parts and assistance in repairs of the weapons supplied earlier.

Dzirkaln said that Russia does not sell helicopters or fighter planes to Syria.

The news came as an opposition group that documents human rights violations in Syria reported that more than 17,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.

The violence has grown increasingly chaotic in recent months, and it is difficult to assign blame for much of the bloodshed as the country spirals toward civil war.

The government restricts journalists from moving freely, making it impossible to independently verify death tolls.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that among the 17,129 deaths are 11,897 civilians, 4,348 soldiers and 884 military defectors.

The group has a network of activists on the ground who document deaths and rights violations through eyewitness, accounts, hospitals and video footage.

Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, says 14,841 civilians have been killed.

With reporting from Beirut.

 

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

 

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