Lebanon asks Interpol to detain 2 Russians over Beirut blast

File photo: Smoke rises on Aug. 5, 2020, after an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, the day before. The blast, caused by the detonation of a stockpile of explosive chemicals that had been illegally imported and improperly stored, killed more than 218 people, injured thousands and destroyed entire neighborhoods of the capital. The Iran backed Hezbollah militant group has been for months trying to get Judge Tarek Bitar who is investigating the blast fired , reportedly because it is concerned about exposing its role in supplying the Syrian government with the explosive chemical for use in its barrel bombs against civilians AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Interpol asked to detain captain and owner of ship that carried thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate to Beirut seven years ago.

The lead investigator into the August blast at Beirut’s port that killed almost 200 and wounded thousands has issued arrest warrants for the captain and owner of a ship that carried thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate to Beirut seven years ago, the state-run National News Agency (NNA) said.

This August 5, 2020 file photo, is the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. 191 killed , several still missing , 6500 Injured after 2,750 Tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded . They were stored there for nearly 7 years. The shelf life of the product is supposed to be 6 months according to experts . After 6 months it starts solidifying and becomes more explodable (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, Beirut, Lebanon

About 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut’s port exploded on August 4, killing 193, wounding about 6,500, and leaving nearly 300,000 people homeless.

On Thursday, judge Fadi Sawwan referred the case to the state prosecution that asked Interpol to detain the two Russian citizens.

File Photo: The ship’s captain at the time, Boris Prokoshev

NNA did not give the names of the two men but Boris Prokoshev was the captain who sailed the MV Rhosus from Turkey to Beirut in 2013. Igor Grechushkin, a Russian businessman residing in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, bought the cargo ship in 2012 from Cypriot businessman Charalambos Manoli.

File photo : Ship’s owner Igor Grechushkin is reported to be still residing in Limassol, Cyprus with his wife

Grechushkin was questioned by police at the request of Interpol’s Lebanon office in August.

MV Rhosus. the ship that carried thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate fro Georgia to Beirut seven years ago.

More than two dozen people, most of them port and customs officials, have been detained since the blast which is considered to be one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.

The ammonium nitrate arrived in Lebanon in September 2013, on board a Russian-owned cargo vessel flying a Moldovan Flag. The Rhosus, according to information from the ship-tracking site, Fleetmon, was heading from Georgia to Mozambique.

The cargo was then offloaded and placed in Hangar 12 of Beirut port, a large grey structure facing the country’s main north-south highway at the main entrance to the capital.

The ammonium nitrate remained at the warehouse until it exploded. The Rhosus never left the port and sank there in February 2018, according to Lebanese official documents.

The blast further rattled a nation grappling with its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The economy is collapsing after decades of state waste, corruption and mounting debt. Banks have frozen people out of their savings and the currency has crashed.

Meanwhile, Lebanon is also struggling to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Schools have not yet reopened after a spike in cases, which have risen in the wake of the explosion to more than 35,000 infections including at least 340 deaths since February 9

Al Jazeera