MOSCOW – A senior Russian prosecutor said Wednesday that his office has exposed an attempt by military officers to smuggle $18 million worth of stolen Russian weapons to China, news reports said.
Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Wednesday that some officers and businessmen shipped the weapons to the ex-Soviet republic of Tajikistan for smuggling to neighboring China.
Fridinsky said the stolen weapons included 30 anti-submarine missiles and about 200 bombs. He didn't elaborate, and his office refused to comment.
Russian Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo later issued a statement saying the navy cooperated with military prosecutors to thwart an attempt to smuggle navy weapons abroad but didn't give any further details.
The Interfax news agency said the alleged criminal group could involve several admirals. It said the suspects had allegedly pocketed $1.6 million of state funds under the guise of dismantling the ammunition they smuggled.
China has been a top customer for Russian weapons since the 1990s, purchasing billions of dollars worth of jets, missiles, submarines and destroyers. But Russian authorities have also nabbed some military officers and civilians whom they accuse of smuggling weapons and sensitive technologies into China.