26th Oct 2016

UK is still sending arms to Russia, say MPs

  • Exports include body armour, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles and military communications equipment (Photo: Yarden Sachs)

The UK is still exporting millions of euros worth of arms to Russia, despite fears that Moscow has been arming separatists in Ukraine.

A report by MPs, published Tuesday (23 July), said that 251 licences worth around £132m (€167m) were still in force although the government in March promised to stop sales to Russia.

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Goods being exported include body armour, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles, military communications equipment and "software for equipment employing cryptography".

Sir John Stanley, head of the House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), said that Russia is an "authoritarian regime" and the government should be restricting sales further.

"We should have been applying a more cautious approach for some time in regard to Russia."

The revelations come just a few days after the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight by suspected Moscow-backed rebels over eastern Ukraine.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was among those pushing for tough sanctions on Moscow in response.

He also sharply criticised other EU countries, among them France, for pursuing military deals with Russia despite its role in destabilising Ukraine.

In a speech before parliament ahead of an EU foreign ministers' meeting to discuss how to respond to the downing of the MH17 flight, Cameron said: "Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain."

Cameron's words prompted a rebuke from French politicians who said the UK should first look at the number of Russian oligarchs in London before criticising others.

“This is a false debate led by hypocrites … When you see how many [Russian] oligarchs have sought refuge in London, David Cameron should start by cleaning up his own back yard," said Jean-Christoph Cambadelis, the head of France's Socialist party.

Foreign minister Laurent Fabius made a similar point.

France for its part has indicated that its planned delivery of a Mistral warship to Russia in October will go ahead while the delivery of a second one will depend on Moscow's "attitude" in the coming weeks.

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