London: Russia has been helping out embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad by sending him planeloads of cash, newly released flight logs have shown.
The logs, obtained by the investigative journalism body ProPublica, showed that an Ilyushin 76 cargo plane belonging to the Syrian Air Force made eight round trips between Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport and Damascus over three months this year.
Each time the planes carried stated cargo of 30 tonnes of banknotes, the logs showed.
According to the Independent, this suggests that a total of 240 tonnes of currency, equivalent to roughly 240m notes, made its way from Russia to Syria.
Goznak, the Russian state body that prints banknotes, has confirmed that in recent months it has provided currency to the Syrian regime.
According to the paper, it is unclear whether all the notes aboard the planes were newly minted Syrian currency, or whether there was also some aid in the form of “hard” currency.
In an interview with the state-controlled Rossiiskaya Gazeta last week, the head of Goznak confirmed for the first time that Russia is indeed producing currency for Damascus.
According to the paper, earlier Syria’s currency was produced in Austria by a subsidiary of the country’s Central Bank.
But after EU sanctions were put in place last year, the government had to look elsewhere for its currency.