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Despite sanctions call, UK OKs Russia arms exports

Britain is still authorizing the export of arms and military equipment to Russia despite the government's call for tough sanctions over Moscow's arming of separatist rebels in Ukraine, a group of lawmakers said Wednesday.

A group of legislative committees that oversee arms export controls said there are 251 export licenses in place for sale of goods worth at least 132 million pounds ($225 million) to Russia. The report did not detail actual exports, simply the licenses.

The permits cover sniper rifles, night sights, small arms ammunition, gun mountings, body armor, military communications equipment, and "equipment employing cryptography."

"Russia is an authoritarian regime," said the committees' chairman, Conservative lawmaker John Stanley. "We should have been applying a more cautious approach for some time in regard to Russia."

Britain has been the most vocal European advocate of tougher sanctions on Russia since the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet last week. Western governments believe rebels shot down the plane with a Russian-made missile, killing all 298 people aboard.

Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized France for going through with a deal to sell warships to Russia.

In March, then-Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would halt the sale to Russia of military equipment that could be used against Ukraine. The lawmakers' report said 31 licenses had since been revoked or suspended.

The British government said Wednesday that its policy was not to export anything that could be used for internal repression or against Ukraine. It said most of the exported material was for "commercial use."

It said all licenses were kept under review.

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