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Militants in Syria change illegal oil trade routes — Russian Defense Ministry

December 25, 2015, 13:32 UTC+3
Turkey however remains the final destination point of oil smuggling
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Trucks crossing the Syria-Turkey border at the Reyhanli crossing point

Trucks crossing the Syria-Turkey border at the Reyhanli crossing point

© Russian Defense Ministry's Press and Information Department/TASS

MOSCOW, December 25. /TASS/. Terrorists are changing crude oil smuggling routes and using new paths to avoid Russian air strikes in Syria but Turkey remains their final destination, Chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operations Department Sergei Rudskoi said on Friday.

"They are changing logistics and laying new routes for crude oil smuggling to avoid Russian air strikes," he said.

The route is running from the province of Deir-ez-Zor controlled by the Islamic State terrorist organization through the border settlements of Guna and Tell-Sfuk in Syria towards the communities of Mosul and Zaho in Iraq, he added.

Convoys of auto trucks follow the shortest route towards the Syrian-Iraqi border, which they cross in the area of the settlement of Tell-Sfuk, he said, adding that Turkey remains the final destination point of oil smuggling.

Oil is smuggled into Turkey through the checkpoint in the area of Zaho, the chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operations Department said.

This route partially coincides with the so-called eastern route, he added.

Russia’s reconnaissance detects almost 12,000 fuel tanker trucks on Turkey-Iraq border

Russia’s reconnaissance has detected almost 12,000 fuel tanker trucks in the area of the settlement of Zaho on the Turkey-Iraq border.

The Zaho area is part of the eastern route used by the Islamic State terrorist organization for illegal oil trade, Rudskoy noted.

"As of the moment of surveillance in the Zaho area, there were 11,775 fuel tanker trucks on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border. As many as 4,530 of them were on the territory of Turkey and 7,245 in Iraq,’ he said.

The chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operations Department also demonstrated enlarged photos of the area by grids.

Specifically, there are 3,850 fuel tanker and large-duty trucks in Grid A on the Turkish side, with 200 of them moving towards the Iraqi border and the rest amassed in parking areas. Russia’s reconnaissance has also spotted 980 fuel tanker trucks in Iraq and 680 in Turkey in Gird B in close vicinity to the border, Rudskoi said.

About another 4,900 fuel tanker trucks are amassed in Grid B and about 1,350 in Grid D, the chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operations Department said.

"It is necessary to note that this checkpoint is used to transport oil extracted both in Iraq and Syria," he added.

Oil tank trucks continue moving from Syria to Turkey

According to the official, heavy-load vehicles continue to move from Syrian territory to Turkey.

"Oil tank trucks continue crossing the Syrian-Turkish border," he said.

Rudskoy added that Russian aircraft continued giving priority to undermining the sources of terrorist revenues in Syria.

"We carefully analyzed foreign media reports, comments of experts and officials that appeared after the Russian Defense Ministry made public information on the routes of smuggling the oil illegally produced by ISIS [former name of the Islamic State terrorist group outlawed in Russia - TASS]. This information on where and how oil is smuggled from the areas controlled by militants did not become a revelation for many. The photo and video footage that we provided just confirmed the existing guesses and versions about who covers up the sources of terrorists’ criminal revenues," Rudskoy said.

Around 2,000 oil tank trucks destroyed in Syria since start of Russian military operation

According to Rudskoy, Russian forces have destroyed 37 oil extraction and processing facilities used by terrorists over the last week, and around 2,000 oil tank trucks belonging to militants have been destroyed since the start of the military operation in Syria.

"Over the last week, 37 oil extraction and processing facilities used by terrorists were destroyed, as well as 17 convoys that transported oil products," Rudskoy said.

Around 2,000 oil tank trucks have been destroyed on the territory of Syria since the start of the Russian military operation, he added. In mid-November, Russian military officials announced that they will concentrate airstrikes at facilities of extracting, storing, transporting and processing oil that are controlled by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, terrorists possess around 8,500 oil tank trucks that transport around 200,000 barrels daily. The airstrikes delivered by the Russian forces contributed to decreasing militants’ revenue from illegal oil trade from $3 million to $1.5 million per day.

Russia's military operation in Syria

Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering pinpoint strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations, which are banned in Russia, on September 30, 2015, on a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The air group initially comprised over 50 aircraft and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM and state-of-the-art Su-34 aircraft. They were redeployed to the Khmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia.

On October 7, four missile ships of the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles (NATO codename Sizzler) at militants’ facilities in Syria. On October 8, the Syrian army passed to a large-scale offensive.

In mid-November, Russia increased the number of aircraft taking part in the operation in Syria to 69 and involved strategic bombers in strikes at militants.

Targets of the Russian aircraft include terrorists’ gasoline tankers and oil refineries.

Russian aircraft have delivered over 4,000 missile and bombing strikes since September 30.

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