Government denies Russian military arms supply

THE UK government has denied claims by a Commons committee that it has allowed defence companies to supply the Russians with military equipment.

Sir John Stanley chairs the Arms Control Committee. Picture: Jane Barlow

The denial came after the Arms Control Committee, chaired by Tory MP Sir John Stanley, said that among the weapons being sent to the Putin regime from the UK were missile parts.

The committee said a total of 251 licences worth at least £132 million remained in force.

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The row broke out after Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that arms sales to Russia were banned following the shooting down of flight MH17 by Russian rebels in the Ukraine who are reportedly backed by Putin’s government.

Mr Cameron also said it would be “unthinkable” of the French to go ahead with the sale of two mistral warships to Russia later this year.

Responding to the committee’s report, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon insisted Britain did not export arms to the Russian armed forces “that could be used for internal repression”.

He added: “That’s always been an absolutely standing policy. We have one of the strictest arms sale policies in the world. There is no equipment at all now that’s being sold to Russia that could possibly be used in Ukraine.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said some of the items, including the anti-aircraft guns, were destined for the Brazilian Navy, which would access the equipment at Russian ports.

“This government has never exported missiles or missile parts to the Russian military,” he said.

Sir John, who has written to the Prime Minister, said the relatively small number of licences which had been withdrawn reflected the “circumscribed” nature of the UK’s moratorium.

He said that Britain had led the way in Europe in curbing defence sales to Russia, but it had still not gone far enough.

He added: “Russia is an authoritarian regime. We should have been applying a more cautious approach for some time in regard to Russia.”