Saudi Arabia has become a major customer of Eastern European (Bulgarian and Serbian) weapons via Azerbaijan’s Silk Way Airlines, Bulgarian newspaper Trud reports.
In 2016 and 2017, there were 23 diplomatic flights carrying weapons from Bulgaria, Serbia and Azerbaijan to Jeddah and Riyadh. The consignees were VMZ military plant and Transmobile from Bulgaria, Yugoimport from Serbia, and CIHAZ from Azerbaijan.
The Kingdom does not buy those weapons for itself, as the Saudi army uses only western weapons. Saudi Arabia officially admits supporting of the terrorist militants in Syria and Yemen.
The Arab Kingdom also distributes military cargo to South Africa – a region plagued by wars over the control of the wealth in gold and diamonds found in African countries.
On 28 April and 12 May this year, Silk Way carried out two diplomatic flights from Baku to Burgas-Jeddah-Brazzaville (Republic of Congo). The military cargo on-board of both flights was paid for by Saudi Arabia.
The aircraft was loaded with mortars and anti-tank grenades including SPG-9 and GP-25.These very same weapons were discovered by the Iraqi army a month ago in an Islamic State warehouse in Mosul. Islamic State jihadists are also seen using those heavy weapons in propaganda videos posted online by the terrorist group. Interestingly, the consignee on the transport documents, however, is the Republican Guards of Congo.
On 5 March 2016, an Azerbaijan Air Force aircraft carried 1700 pcs. RPG-7 (consignor: Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan) and 2500 pcs. PG-7VM (consignor: Transmobilе Ltd., Bulgaria) for the Defense Ministry of Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic flights from Burgas Airport to Prince Sultan Airport on 18 and 28 February 2017 each carried a further 5080 psc. 40 mm PG-7V for RPG-7 and 24 978 psc. RGD-5. The weapons were exported by Transmobile, Bulgaria to the Ministry of Defense of Saudi Arabia. Such munitions and RPG-7 originating in Bulgaria can often be seen in videos filmed in Syria, Iraq,Yemen and posted by the Islamic State on their propaganda channels.
The UAE is also included in these deals.
On 26 February 2016, an Azerbaijan Air Force aircraft took off from Baku and landed in UAE, where it loaded two armored vehicles and one Lexus car. The request for diplomatic clearance indicated the payment as cash – US dollars. The aircraft landed in North Sudan and, the next day, in the Republic of Congo. The exporter was Safe Cage Armour Works FZ LLC, UАЕ and the receiving party was the Republican Guards of Congo. The sponsoring party, however, was Saudi Arabia.
White Phosphorus is an incendiary weapon whose use is very controversial due to the deadly harms it can inflict. On 31 March 2015, Silk Way transported 26 tons of military cargo including white phosphorus from Serbia (exporter: Yugoimport) and 63 tons from Bulgaria (exporter: Arsenal). On 22 March, another 100 tons of white phosphorus were exported from Yugoimport, Belgrade to Kabul. No contract is attached to the documents of those flights.
On 2 May 2015, a Silk Way aircraft loaded 17 tons of ammunition, including white phosphorus, at Burgas airport. The exporter was Dunarit, Bulgaria. The aircraft made a technical landing and a 4-hour stop at Baku before reaching its final destination – Kabul. The consignee was the Afghani police. No contract is attached as proof.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense was repeatedly the consignee of weapons which it actually did not receive. On 6 May 2015, an Azerbaijani military aircraft flew to Burgas (Bulgaria)-Incirlik (Turkey)-Burgas. It carried aviation equipment from Bulgaria to Turkey with the consigner: EMCO LTD, Sofia, and consignee – Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. However, the cargo was offloaded in Turkey and never reached Azerbaijan.
Baku plays the role of an international hub for weapons. Many of the flights make technical landings with stops of a few hours at Baku airport or other intermediary airports en-route to their final destinations. Moreover, these types of aircrafts flying to the same destinations do not typically make technical landings. Therefore, a landing for refueling is not actually required. Despite this, Silk Way aircrafts constantly made technical landings. A case in point: in December of 2015 Silk Way carried out 14 flights with 40 tons of weapons on each flight to the destination Ostrava (the Czech Republic)-Ovda (Israel)-Nososny (Azerbaijan). The exporter is not mentioned in the documents while the receiver is consistently the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan. Strangely, the aircraft diverted and landed at Ovda airport (a military base in Southern Israel), where it remained for 2 hours.
In 2017, there were 5 flights from Nish (Serbia) via Ovda (Israel) to Nasosny (Azerbaijan). Each flight carried 44 tons of cargo – SPG Howitzer, RM-70/85. The consignor is MSM Martin, Serbia, the consignee: Elbit Systems, Israel, and the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. All aircrafts landed in Israel and stayed for 2 hours en-route to Azerbaijan.
The same Israeli company Elbit Systems on a flight from Barno (the Czech Republic) via Tel Aviv (Israel) to Bratislava (Slovakia) re-exported armored vehicles (TATRA T-815 VP31, TATRA T-815 VPR9). They were sent by Real Trade, Prague to Elbit Systems. The ultimate consignee, however, was the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. The aircraft landed in Tel Aviv and then in Bratislava, where the cargo was imported by another company – MSM Martin, Slovakia. It is not clear why the plane flew from Europe to Asia and then back to Europe with the same cargo on-board. Ultimately, it did not reach its final destination – Azerbaijan. Since the flight was diplomatic, it was not subjected to inspection.