MOSCOW - A Russian ship suspected of carrying munitions for Damascus arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus on "Jan. 11 or 12," shipping expert Mikhail Voitenko said.
The ship Chariot arrived at Tartus on January 11 or 12," Voitenko said Jan. 14, basing his conclusions on an examination of data from the vessel's automatic identification system transponder.
"After leaving Limassol, the ship set sail for Tartus. After travelling two-thirds of the way, the team unplugged the AIS transponder," he added.
He believed that the vessel has docked at the Syrian port, he said. It was Voitenko who in 2009 revealed the mysterious disappearance of an Arctic Sea ship, an incident that sparked international concern.
A source from the ship's operator Westberg said Jan. 13 that the ship transporting "dangerous" cargo was bound for Syria.
According to Russian media, the vessel may be transporting up to 60 tons of ammunition supplied by Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport through freight company Balchart.
Chariot stopped over in Cyprus for refueling and was allowed to set sail from the port of Limassol after its Russian owners agreed to change the destination to Turkey rather than Syria.
But the crew decided to revert to its original itinerary after leaving the Cypriot port, according to a Westberg source.
Westberg Ltd., which is headquartered in St Petersburg, could not be reached by AFP.
The United States on Jan. 13 raised concerns with Russia and Cyprus over the ship.
For 10 months now Syria has been in the grips of an uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. According to U.N. estimates made last month, the government crackdown has cost more than 5,000 lives.
Western leaders have called for the embattled strongman to step down but Moscow has steadfastly stuck by its ally.