Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mystery Plane Detained in Thailand

Russia has had tense relations with some of its neighbors recently, but there apparently is one thing that can bring them all together - illicit arms shipments.

Officials in Thailand on Friday detained a Russian aircraft, registered in Georgia with a Belorussian crew on suspicions that it was carrying 40 tons of heavy weaponry smuggled out of North Korea. Because of North Korea's ongoing nuclear bomb and ballistic missile programs, the United Nations slapped an arms embargo on the country last June making such shipments of weapons illegal.

The mystery plane seems to have been trying to violate that embargo. The plane was seized after it stopped in Bangkok to refuel; its official manifest said it was carrying "oil drilling equipment", though upon inspection it was actually found to be full of North Korean-made weapons. The plane, crew and weapons are now being held by Thai officials.

Where the plane was ultimately heading is also a mystery. Thai officials think it would eventually have gone to Pakistan, others think that Sri Lanka, it's next stop, was also its final destination, but the pilot was quoted by China's Xinhua news service as saying they were actually headed for Ukraine.
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