Russia Accuses Turkey of Supplying Syrian Militants

Russia Accuses Turkey of Supplying Syrian MilitantsRussia Accuses Turkey of Supplying Syrian Militants

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Friday sent a letter to the UN Security Council saying three Turkish humanitarian organizations were fronts for the country’s intelligence service to send weapons and supplies to extremists in Syria.

“The main supplier of weapons and military equipment to ISIL fighters is Turkey, which is doing so through non-governmental organizations,” Churkin said in a letter dated March 18, referring to the self-declared Islamic State terrorist group by another acronym, ISIL, AFP reported.

Churkin accused Besar Foundation, Iyilikder Foundation and Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms (IHH) of shipping “various supplies” on behalf of Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency.

It is not the first time Russia has accused Turkey of backing extremist groups in Syria. Russia and the Syrian government consider all rebels fighting against the regime to be terrorists.

Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been the main backers of rebels, several of them hardline militant groups, seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey denies supplying extremist groups, but has often been accused of having turned a blind eye, if not actively supporting fighters crossing the border, as well as providing supplies and weapons to various groups.

Some Turkish-backed groups such as the militant Ahrar Al-Sham have ties to Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front.

As the conflict in Syria has progressed, fighters from some rebels groups have broken off to join with more radical militants, including Al-Nusra and IS. Adding to the complexity, the Syrian Kurds have accused Turkey of backing extremist groups to thwart their efforts in self-governance and military advances.

Russia’s renewed accusations come as two prominent Turkish journalists are on trial for treason over a 2015 story they published with pictures of trucks alleged to have belonged to Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency carrying weapons to Syria.

At the time, in January 2014, the trucks were stopped by gendarmerie. The government first said the shipments were a national secret, then said they were carrying food and medicine.