Russia starts sending equipment to Lebanon

(RIA Novosti) - The first consignment of equipment for Russia's combat engineers, who will head to Lebanon to help the war-ravaged country restore its destroyed infrastructure, will set off for a southern Russian port Monday, a battalion commander said, reports Trend.

A train from the town of Kashira, carrying about 40 links of a panel car bridge, will arrive at the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk September 28, he said, adding that over 30 contract servicemen, most of them drivers, will deliver the consignment to Lebanon by ship.

He said one more train from Kashira, which is about 70 miles south of Moscow, will deliver the battalion's remaining equipment to Novorossiisk. A total of 80 servicemen from Kashira will be sent to Lebanon, he said.

Israeli military operations against the Lebanon-based radical group Hizbollah in late July-early August claimed the lives of over 1,000 Lebanese civilians, forced nearly a quarter of the country's population to flee, and demolished some 100 bridges and 60 highways. The total damage inflicted is estimated in the billions of dollars. About 160 Israelis also died.

The Russian ship Yury Arshenevsky, which is set to pick up combat engineers and equipment and leave Novorossiisk October 3, is scheduled to arrive at El-Jiya, a port in southern Lebanon, October 6, he said.

General of the Army Vladimir Isakov, a deputy defense minister and the ministry logistics chief, said the battalion is scheduled to complete its Lebanon mission in two months.

"A timeframe for battalion stay in Lebanon is set at two months," he said.

Russia's deputy prime minister and defense minister Sergei Ivanov said earlier this month that Russia's contingent in Lebanon, which will comprise 350-400 contract servicemen, will not participate in the UN peacekeeping group, but will operate on the basis of bilateral agreements between the Russian and Lebanese governments.

The UN is presiding over humanitarian efforts and is to deploy 15,000 peacekeepers in southern Lebanon to ensure a ceasefire after month-long fighting between Hizbollah and Israel.

Russia has already provided $2 million worth of aid to Lebanon during the crisis, when it sent four aircraft with goods requested by the Lebanese government to Cyprus, where they were passed on to UN workers for delivery to Lebanon.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia could provide financial aid through such UN organizations as the World Food Program, the World Health Organization and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

President Vladimir Putin said Saturday Russia would send a small group of construction workers to Lebanon only if it is convinced all political forces in the country agree to it.

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