Serbia says that the Ukrainian plane was transporting approximately 11.5 tonnes of products made by its defence industry to Bangladesh (Image courtesy: Twitter/@crispSV)
Serbia's Ministry of Defence has once again strongly condemned the "manipulation and untruths that are still being spread" with regard to the Antonov An-12 transport aircraft which had crashed in Greece on Saturday.
Owned by a Ukrainian airline, the plane – which according to Serbia, was transporting approximately 11.5 tonnes of products made by its defence industry to Bangladesh – had crashed near the town of Kavala in northern Greece killing all eight crew members.
The flight was due to make "technical stops" in the Jordanian capital Amman, Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh and India's Ahmedabad before reaching its final destination Dhaka.
Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, who also serves as the country's Minister of Defence, had accused "some media, both foreign and local" of spreading "completely incorrect and malicious" disinformation about the plane allegedly transporting weapons from Serbia to Ukraine.
In a fresh statement on Wednesday, Serbia reiterated that it did not use this plane to transport weapons to Ukraine and that the plane that crashed in Greece had been transporting the products manufactured by its defence industry to a validated end user – the Ministry of Defence of Bangladesh.
Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic: The aircraft was transporting products made by Serbian defence industry to Bangladesh (Image courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Serbia)
Belgrade insisted that it observes all international regulations governing the trade and export of weapons and military equipment and its defence industry will continue to manufacture and sell products to all validated end users – the countries that are not under international sanctions.
"The owner of the shipment, containing about 11.5 tonnes of instructional mines and illuminating mortar shells, was the Serbian private company Valir, and the plane which was transporting the shipment was owned by a Ukrainian private airline," said Serbia's Ministry of Defence.
It said that "the whole truth and facts" have already been confirmed by all actors – including the air carrier and Bangladesh's Ministry of Defence – with Dhaka even specifying that the mines were intended for their military and frontier guard.
Meridan flight #MEM3032 took off from Nis at 18:36 UTC time.
At 19:30 UTC time it made a U-turn over the Aegean Sea.
We received the last signal at 19:47:39 UTC time. The transponder was reporting an altitude of 350 feet, about 36 km from Kavala Airport in Greece. pic.twitter.com/eqI5FePn8W
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) July 16, 2022
Even as reports suggest Greece being quite upset about not being informed in advance about the nature of the aircraft's cargo, Serbia said today that it is not responsible for issuing permits to fly over foreign territories as it is a sovereign decision of each country, to which the carrier applies for an overflight permit in such cases.
"In this case, our country fully complied with international law and fulfilled all international obligations, and we are providing support to the Greek authorities in conducting a detailed investigation," said the Serbian government.
The Serbian defence industry is a major contributor to the country’s GDP and economy with its companies, which employ about 22,000 people, exporting five hundred million dollars worth of weapons last year.
The country's defence ministry said on Wednesday that since 2016, it has been keeping electronic records on all the permits issued for the transfer of weapons and military equipment from Serbia, and none have been issued for the transport of any type of weapons or military equipment from Serbia to Ukraine.
"It is clear that certain domestic and foreign circles are disappointed that the original allegations that Serbia was transporting weapons to Ukraine have been debunked and that they are running out of ideas for inventing lies that might harm Serbia and its defence industry," the statement said.
However, irrespective of several clarifications and statements from Belgrade, a political storm continues to brew in Athens with the main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance party accusing the Kyriakos Mitsotakis government of "sending weapons to Ukraine" and that they are likely to end up together with other countries on the black market.
"At the moment when Mr. Mitsotakis, by his personal decision, continues to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, involving Greece in the front line of the war, and while Interpol warns of the danger of these weapons ending up on the black market, the questions and confusing information are increasing for the Ukrainian aircraft with 12 tons of ammunition that crashed in our country," the party said in a statement on Monday.
"What was the actual cargo and 'hazardous material'? Why was there no information about the cargo of the Ukrainian Antonov? What was the actual origin and what was the actual final destination of the cargo? Clear answers are due immediately," it questioned.
Also Read: Cargo plane carrying 11 tonnes of weapons for Bangladesh crashes in Greece, 8 killed