On the evening of Saturday, July 16, a Ukrainian Antonov An-12 cargo plane reported problems. At 19.42 the plane asks for permission to land in Kavala, a small town in northern Greece.
No one heard from the plane.
Fifteen minutes after the last radio contact, A burning plane crashed into a corn field in the small village of PalaiochoriOutside of Kavala, it explodes.
Palayachori has a population of about 1,600.
Planes don’t crash here very often.
Not as a sea of flames, anyway.
The latter can be explained by the 11.5 tons of weapons and mines loaded on board. A Greek newspaper reported that the bombs were scattered within a kilometer radius of the plane. Kathimerini.
Where exactly did these weapons go?
As many as 1,600 people could hear the explosions until Sunday.
Emergency services spent days trying to find the eight dead, all of whom were Ukrainians.
A known arms dealer was involved
I am writing now Deutsche Welle The weapons the plane was carrying may have been manufactured by Slobodan Desic, who is said to be one of the biggest arms dealers in the Balkans and has long been on the US sanctions list.
According to Deutsche Welle, Serbia is one of Europe’s most important arms producers, supplying everything from small arms and mines to artillery, tanks, fighter jets and missile systems.
According to the newspaper, Desic was often involved in the illegal sale of Serbian arms. He was on the US sanctions list from 2003 to 2013, after illegally selling weapons to Liberia, and was placed there again in 2017 for illegal sales.
The 64-year-old was at the center of the so-called Gruzic scandal, which was revealed in 2019.
His companies then bought weapons from the state-owned arms manufacturer Krusik at well below market prices and sold the weapons abroad at significantly higher prices.
This was despite the fact that another state-owned company was responsible for Serbian arms sales abroad.
– Doesn’t always follow the rules
According to one expert, Serbia also does not know where the weapons are sold.
– The Serbian government is trying to squeeze every dinar out of this industry. Exports are limited to countries under UN sanctions and countries involved in armed conflict, but Serbia does not always follow these rules, says Vuk Viksanovic at Belgrade’s Center for Security Policy.
In February of this year, according to Deutsche Welle, Serbian journalists revealed that even after the military coup in February 2021, Serbian weapons were supplied to Myanmar.
On the way to Bangladesh
Deutsche Welle speculates that the plane that crashed in Greece was en route to Bangladesh via Jordan, but it may have actually been en route to Ukraine, although it took off from Nis in Serbia and flew south instead of east.
However, the incident has strained diplomatic relations between Greece and Serbia and between Greece and Ukraine. Greek authorities have sent A formal complaint to both countries They were not informed in advance about the cargo of the flight.
The plane’s owner, Meridian, and the Serbian defense minister have denied that the plane was headed for Ukraine.
But the political scientist interviewed by Deutsche Welle still believes the question should be pursued.
– The public deserves answers as to why Ukrainian aircraft are now carrying Serbian weapons, while a major international conflict is ongoing over Ukrainian territory, Vuksanovic believes in Belgrade.
He suspects that Serbia is trying to balance between appeasing both the West and Russia.
– This means arms to Ukraine to appease the West on the one hand, and concessions from Serbia to Russia on the other. It’s all about the Serbian elite’s attempt to balance international power centers in order to get support in return, Vuksanovic says.
Norwegian expert doubts Ukraine theory
Associate Professor Tom Rocheth, a leading author on intelligence and head of the Ukraine Program at the Norwegian Defense Academy, observed the crash.
He is skeptical of the theory that weapons are going to Ukraine.
– There is really nothing unusual about the Antonov aircraft of the Ukrainian company being used for weapons transport. Norway also employed it when we had to transport weapons to Germany. These are highly efficient and large cargo planes that can accommodate armored vehicles and are typically used for weapons delivery, Rosseth tells TV 2.
He understands the suspicion that the plane is going to Ukraine, but there are many things that speak against this.
– First, the state of Serbia is unlikely to be considered a supplier to Ukraine. After all, it’s a private company, Valir, which from what I’ve seen has contracts with the Serbian government. It’s a business with a Ukrainian company that will supply arms as usual, and the location matches the direction to Bangladesh, says Roseth.
– At the same time, can one say that the right to Bangladesh could be a cover for Serbia, which has turned this around and violated Russia by selling weapons to Ukraine?
– Yes, I can’t rule it out, but I don’t think the Serbian government will take that risk. Serbia still has a strong identity towards Russia, Roseth insists.
Greek authorities are now involved in the cleanup after the plane crash.
– According to a first estimate, it will take at least a month to clean up the area, local mayor Philippos Anastasiades told state TV channel TV ERT last week, NTB said.
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