Tag Archives: Beirut

Beirut: Rhosus capitan complained to Putin in vain

Rhosus entered the port of Beirut on November 21, 2013 and never left it again, the former capitan of the vessel Boris Prokoshev said in an interview to Russian media “Siberia. Realia”, reminiscent of his hostage experience, while administration of the port banned him and a part of his crew to leave Lebanon, until the fee to port would be paid by the ship owner.

“I wrote to Putin every month. I wrote that our condition is worse than that of the prisoners. The prisoner knows when he will be released, but we did not know when we would be released! And would we be released at all! The answer was a formal reply: your appeal was sent to the Foreign Ministry. The [Russian] consulate told me: what do you want? Putin to send special forces to release you from here by force? They could hire a lawyer, sue. But they did nothing. As a result, we sold the fuel ourselves and hired a lawyer. He filed a lawsuit against the Lebanese authorities, because they had no right to keep us, moreover our contracts have already ended. And through the court we were allowed to leave” Prokoshev said, sharing his memeories about his unfortunate work at Rhosus, which carried fertilises to Beirut port.

The last time the ship transmitted the signal was on August 7, 2014 – the same month the crew left it. The Lebanese authorities moved the cargo from the ship to a warehouse in the port, and in 2015 Rhosus was towed about 300 meters further. In February 2018, due to leaks, the ship sank in a few days. The Beirut authorities did not do anything with it, the remains of the vessel did not interfere with traffic, the newspaper writes.

One of the possible causes of Beirut blasts is said to be welding in the warehouse where the explosive cargo was stored. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has underlined that three versions of the incident are being considered: an accident, negligence of officials and external interference. Aoun did not rule out a bomb or rocket attack.

Ammonium nitrate, stored in the port of Beirut exploded on August 4, could not detonate on its own – for this, an external influence was necessary, the former captain of the vessel Prokoshev said, from whose ship an explosive cargo was confiscated six years ago.

“There was some external reason. Maybe a spark, maybe arson, an explosive device. There was some kind of external detonator,” Boris Prokoshev explained. According to him, the ammonium nitrate had double package – an airtight polyethylene bag and one more dense. “Air and water did not enter there. Each bag weighed a ton, there were 2,750 bags,” Prokoshev said.

In an interview with “Siberia. Realia” the captain said that he was hired at the moment when the Russian Igor Grechushkin bought it. According to the sailor, in 2013 the crew was sent to Batumi for a cargo of mineral fertilizers for delivery to Mozambique, but during the voyage the ship owner demanded to navigate to Lebanon and take an additional cargo of equipment of heavy machinery. It was then in the port of Beirut that the problems occurred. The Beirut cargo appeared too heavvy to be loaded, and also the port fee was not paid. These two debts had created a legal problem for Rhosus to leave the port, because the administration was not willing to realise it untill the amount paid, the capitan explained.

According to the captain, it turned out that the shipowner did not pay for either food supplies or port dues, and also owed 4 months’ salary to the previous crew. The Beirut authorities have forbidden “Rosus” to leave the port until the payment of the debts, and the sailors were banned to leave the country, de facto becoming the hostages of the port administration.

«And we stuck there for 11 months!» Prokoshev said. «We were not paid».

The sailors tried to go on strike and organize a hunger strike, but “there is no point in starving on the ship, only to die,” the former captain underlined. The sailors were able to return home only a year later, selling part of the fuel and hiring a lawyer, who sued the Lebanese government for illegally retaining part of the crew. Three months later, the court decided to allow the sailors to repatriate.

According to Prokoshev, the saltpeter was unloaded from the vessel after the crew left. At the same time, the sailors were left without the due salary. According to the captain’s calculations, he is owed more than $ 200,000, including damages for detention in Beirut.

Back in 2014, Prokoshev complained to the seamen’s union in Novorossiysk about the problems of the Rhosus crew. The complaint stated that the owner of the vessel could not sell it and pay off the sailors because of the dangerous cargo on board. The captain noted that the owner of the ship was offered to abandon it. In this case, all debts would have been paid, and Rhosus would have been sold for scrap, but the owner refused.

Grechushkin at first seemed normal, the captan said. Later he learned that the previous crew of “Rosus” left due to non-payment of salaries. They did not tell him anything, explained the dismissal by the fact that we had to go to Mozambique, and this is far, they did not want to. Initailly the captain was glad to go so far as Mozambique: to earn more for long distance navigation.

Rhosus first anchored in Greece, ordered food and supplies for the long voyage, but suddenly Grechushkin refused to pay. He said he had no money. Then he demanded to navigate to Beirut to take extra cargo on deck and earn extra money. There the ship was arrested for non-payment of the port dues.

Part of the team was able to leave Lebanon, but they refused to release the capitan, the chief engineer, the third engineer and the boatswain. The Lebanese authorities simply didn’t want to pay anyone to guard the vessel, and the dangerous cargo.

“…We lived at Rosus for 11 months. Grechushkin did not pay us and did not even buy food, one might say, doomed us to hunger. The port sent us food” he said.

“Our situation was worse than that of the prisoners: they know when they will be released, but we did not. I am a Russian citizen and every month I wrote to Putin! But I only got meaningless replies. The Russian consulate did nothing for us. We ended up selling fuel from the ship and hiring a lawyer”, he added. Through the courts, he obtained the release from the Lebanese authorities.

After returning to Russia, the capitan tried to sue Grechushkin, but he was told to file a lawsuit at his place of residence. And at that time he was already living in Cyprus. Grechushkin owes to the capitan $60 000, the chief engineer – $50 000, the third engineer – around $20 000, the boatswain – about $10 000. Although the customers from Mozambique paid him a million dollars, according to the previous captain of the Rosus, the capitan continues, Grechushkin just decided to abandon the ship and pocket a million.

At first the capitan was not worried: “I thought that the customers would not leave the cargo, they only paid a million for the transportation. But they “showed no movement at all”.

After the departure of the second part of the crew, ammonium nitrate from “Rosus” was unloaded to a warehouse under the responsibility of the Lebanese Ministry of Transport. The capitan learned about this from sailors he knew who came to Beirut. And the ship sank two or three years ago. It had a small hole, it was necessary to periodically pump out water. And if there was no crew, there was no one to do it, the capitan continued his narrative.

Boris Prokoshev is convinced that the authorities themselves are to blame for yesterday’s explosion in Beirut. “There was no point in arresting this ship, it was necessary to get rid of it as soon as possible!” the capitan concluded.

Beirut: Michel calls for independent enquiry

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, travelled to Beirut on 8 August 2020 to convey EU solidarity with the people in Lebanon after the devastating explosions on 4 August.

The President visited the Port of Beirut to witness the scale of the disaster. He called for an independent enquiry to shed light on the causes of this catastrophe and offered European expertise. During his visit, President Michel met with representatives of the Lebanese Red Cross and paid his respect to the rescue teams, including Europeans, working around the clock and showing tremendous courage.

«I’m touched by the bravery of the Lebanese people who have been hit by this tragedy in an already difficult context. The EU is a long-standing friend and partner. We are in full solidarity with Lebanon more than ever in these difficult times», Charles Michel said.

President Michel repeated the EU readiness to continue the provision of urgent assistance to help the people in Lebanon. The EU has already activated its emergency mechanisms.

It has mobilised EUR 33 million for emergency needs and more than 250 rescuers from European Member States are on the ground. Tons of emergency supplies have been made available and more will follow. Together with the President of the European Commission, President Michel urged all EU Member States to intensify their support to Lebanon both for the immediate needs and for the longer-term reconstruction. It is key that assistance reaches those who need it.

During his visit, the President of the European Council met with President Michel Aoun, Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri and President of the Council of Ministers Hassan Diab. The unity and stability of Lebanon are all the more crucial today, both internally, and also for the whole region. President Michel also underlined the importance of structural reforms in line with the government’s reform plan and Lebanon’s international commitments and as called by the Lebanese people. An agreement with the International Monetary Fund is urgently needed. He therefore called for concrete steps to reform the financial system and to adopt anti-corruption measures.

« Local political forces should seize the opportunity and unite around a national effort to respond to the immediate needs but also more long term challenges the country is facing. It’s of critical importance for Lebanon to implement the fundamental structural reforms. The Lebanese can count on the European Union in this effort – but internal unity is key » Charles Michel has underlined.

President Aoun: blasts causes unknown

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said the Beirut  explosion cause remains unknown and that there’s a possible external interference via a rocket, bomb or another act, Reuters reports citing the president’s office.

It was the first acknowledgement by a Lebanese official of the possibility that huge blast may have been caused by a deliberate attack. Previously the prevailing hypothesis has been the negligence of the port administration, which did not evacuate the massive amount of the explosive substance, ignoring the demands of the relevant inspectorate during six years.

In the aftermath of the explosion the official had said a fire at the port had ignited tonnes of ammonium nitrate expropriated from a cargo ship and stored for years in a warehouse, and directly blamed the port administration.

Président also underlined that there will be no international investigation into the explosion causes. “No colonial power will return to Lebanon” he said, while answering questions of press.

The blast has killed at least 154 people, injured around to 5,000 and left 300,000 people homeless, among them 80 000 children.

Michel solidarity visit to Beirut

EU Council President Charles Michel has announced his solidarity visit to Beirut.
«Traveling to Beirut  tomorrow to convey Europe’s solidarity with the people in Lebanon
Shocked and saddened, we stand with all those affected and will provide help » he wrote in his Twitter micro blog.
«Will meet with President Aoun, Speaker of Parliament Berri and President of Council of Ministers Diab» he added.

Following the devastating explosions in Beirut on August 4, with many victims and injured, the European Union expresses its full solidarity with and support for the families of the victims, the Lebanese people and authorities.

The EU began providing assistance and support and we stand ready to mobilise further help. As an immediate first response and upon request of the Lebanese authorities, the EU has activated all its emergency mechanisms and is working with its Member States to provide this support as rapidly as possible.

The EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), which coordinates EU and EU Member States’ emergency support, including civil protection, is in close contact with their counterparts in Lebanon to understand the needs on the ground and provide urgent assistance. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is coordinating the deployment of needed equipment and over 100 firefighters, specialised in search and rescue. They will work with the Lebanese authorities to save lives on the ground and provide emergency medical support, including through the Lebanese Red Cross.

In addition, the ERCC has triggered the Copernicus Satellite Mapping service to support local authorities, for the production of satellite maps in rapid mapping mode.

In a phone call with Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe, the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell stressed the EU’s support to help Lebanon and he said: “This tragic moment for Lebanon should be the occasion to unite all political forces around a national effort to respond to the many challenges the country is facing. The European Union will remain firmly at the side of Lebanon and the Lebanese people in this effort.”

Borrell also underlined the importance that the European Union attaches to the unity and stability of Lebanon, which are all the more important today, both internally and for the region.

Russia sends mobile hospital to Beirut

Russian Ministry of Emergency announced that five planes were immedialtey sent to Lebanon transporting mobile medical hospital for injured and specialists in search and rescue with equipment to work in the debris in the aftermath of explosion that occurred at Beirut Port on August 4.

The Ministry’s press office told radio Sputnik: “Five planes belonging to the Russian Ministry of Emergency will be sent as part of the humanitarian work to Beirut to provide assistance and eliminate the effects of the port explosion.”

The press office added: “The aircraft will transport a mobile hospital, doctors and workers from the rescue center, in addition to specialists from the Consumer Protection Authority, as well as laboratories to detect the emerging corona virus, Covid-19.”

The Ministry also announced the dispatch of experts from the Russian Consumer Protection Agency to Beirut, lab kits to test for coronavirus, clothes and means of protection.

A huge explosion shook the port of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, earlier on Tuesday, causing over 80 deaths deaths, 3,500 injuries and great material losses.

Beirut Blasts: Borrell expresses «total support» to Lebanon

The European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell expressed his solidarity and support to people of Liban, the families of the victims, and the authorities following the violent explosions, ruining the port of Beirut.

The president of the EU Council Charles Michel ensured, that the EU will stand by people of Lebanon to provide assistance, he expressed his sympathies to families of vicitms, and wished people of Liban a lot of strength in this tragic circumstances.

A double blast in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, has killed at least 27 people and injured more than 2,500 others, the health minister Hamad Hassan said.

It is not yet clear what caused the explosion in the port region. Videos posted online showed a column of smoke followed by a large mushroom cloud. The port infractructe is reported to be destroyed completely, along with the stragegic goods as food storages.

Hospitals are said to be overwhelmed and many buildings have been destroyed, or damaged.

Lebanon’s internal security chief said the blast happened in an area housing highly explosive materials.

The explosion occurs at a sensitive time for Lebanon, with an economic crisis reigniting old divisions. Tensions are also high ahead of Friday’s verdict in a trial over the killing of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

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Beirut port destoyed by massive explosion

A huge explostion has hit the Lebanese capital, Beirut, causing widespread damage and injuring many people, officials said.
It is not yet clear what caused the explosion in the port area of the city. Video posted online showed a large mushroom cloud and destroyed buildings, broken glass and dust in surrounding area.

Hospitals are said to be overwhelmed by casualties. The Health minister Hamad Hassan has informed about many injures and extensive damage to infrastructure.
It comes at a sensitive time with the country’s economic collapse reigniting old tensions.

«Terrible explosion in the port of Beirut. The images are terrifying.
In these difficult times for Lebanon, already hit hard by the crisis, I extend my condolences to the families of the victims and all my support to the Lebanese in the face of this tragedy» wrote Marine Le Pen in her Twitter micro blog.

«Stunned by the violence of the explosion that took place a few minutes ago in #Beyrouth, I extend my sympathy and support to the Lebanese people in this new ordeal» twteeted Rachida Dati, ex-candiate for Mayor of Paris.

«The port of #Beyrouth is destroyed. Billions of dollars in imported goods as well as the national wheat reserves were destroyed in the explosion» Twitter users comment, posting images of devastation and desarray.

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The Governor of Beyrouth said: “It’s a national disaster. It’s a disaster for Lebanon. We don’t know how we’re going to get over it… We have to stay strong… We have to be brave”, before bursting into tears.

ECJ: humanitarian visa is a national competence

The EU’s top court based in Luxembourg ruled Tuesday that states can deny short-term humanitarian visas to people trying to enter to claim asylum, in a case of a Syrian family trying to come to Belgium.

The decision by the  European Court of Justice in Kirchberg was seen as a test case for EU countries facing a surge in refugees in the past two years, mainly from Syria’s civil war.

In a surprise judgment, the court ruled against the family from the besieged city of Aleppo who had applied for the humanitarian visas at the Belgian embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut last October.