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Lebanon asks Interpol to arrest Russian captain, ship owner over Beirut blast

Aftermath of the 2020 Beirut explosions august 6 2020 (Freimut Bahlo/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Lebanon has asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants for the Russian captain and owner of the vessel that brought a shipment of ammonium nitrate behind a massive explosion at Beirut port in August.

Lebanon’s state news agency NNA said October 1 that public prosecutors have asked Interpol to issue warrants against the two Russians as part of a widening probe into what caused the explosion, which killed nearly 200 people, wounded thousands, and devastated downtown Beirut.

Authorities have blamed the August 4 explosion on nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate — a material used in fertilizer but also explosives — that was stored in poor conditions at Beirut’s port for years.

Many questions remain about why and how the cargo was abandoned in Beirut amid allegations of negligence against Lebanese authorities. Nearly 20 people have been detained in Lebanon after the blast, including port and customs officials.

The Rhosus, a Moldovan-flagged cargo ship sailing from Georgia to an explosives factory in Mozambique, is widely understood to have brought the fertilizer to Beirut in 2013 during an unscheduled detour.

NNA did not give the names of the two men sought by the Interpol warrant, but Russian national Boris Prokoshev was the captain who sailed the vessel to Beirut in 2013. Prokoshev is believed to be in Russia.

Igor Grechushkin, a Russian businessman residing in Cyprus, is believed to have been the owner. Grechushkin was questioned by police at the request of Interpol’s Lebanon office in August.

The Rhosus never ended up leaving Beirut due to a legal dispute over port fees and ship defects.

In October 2014, the ammonium nitrate was moved to a warehouse at Beirut’s port that holds impounded materials. It remained there until the explosion.

The ship sank near the port in February 2018.