MOSCOW (AP) – Russia's foreign minister lashed out at Britain on Thursday for pressuring a Russian-operated ship heading to Syria with a load of weapons to turn back, saying that Moscow won't abide by European Union sanctions against its Arab ally.
Sergey Lavrov said a British insurer's decision to remove the ship's coverage reflected the "unreliability of the British insurance system." He also said the British government defied international law by asking the insurance company to act.
"The EU sanctions aren't part of the international law," he said on nationally broadcast Ekho Moskvy radio.
Britain has joined the United States and other countries in pressing Russia to halt arms shipments to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Opposition groups say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.
The U.K.-based insurer Standard Club said it removed insurance coverage for the ship owner when it became aware it was carrying munitions, a clear breach of its rules. The move forced the ship, the MV Alaed, to turn back toward Russia.
"This is a very slipperly slope," Lavrov said in a separate interview with Russia Today television. "This means that anyone — any country or any company — who is not violating any international rules, who is not violating any U.N. Security Council resolutions, might be subject to extra-territorial application of somebody else's unilateral sanctions."
Russia, along with China, has twice shielded Syria from proposed international sanctions over Assad's crackdown on protests. It also has continued to provide Damascus, its last remaining Mideast ally, with weapons.
Lavrov told Ekho Moskvy radio the ship was carrying new air defense systems and three refurbished military helicopters to Syria, arguing the shipment was entirely legitimate.
Russia slams Britain over Syria-bound ship