Lebanon seeks Interpol arrest warrants for Russian pair linked to Beirut explosion

Fire burns in the port in Beirut, Lebanon – AP/ Hussein Malla

Lebanon has asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants for two Russians who brought two thousand tonnes of explosive materials into Beirut port, resulting in the huge explosion in August that killed nearly 200 people.

The request to detain the captain and owner of the ship that brought the materials was made by Lebanon’s public prosecution agency, though it did not name either of the men.

Boris Prokoshev was captain of the Rhosus ship when it arrived in Beirut in 2013, and he had identified Igor Grechushkin, a Russian businessman in Cyprus, as the owner.

A security source and a judicial source told Reuters news agency that they were the two people for whom Lebanon asked for arrest warrants.

Lebanese victims of the tragedy and their relatives are still seeking answers to why the enormous stockpile was allowed to remain in the port for a number of years before it went up in flames and triggered an enormous explosion.

The blast ripped through the Lebanese capital as it turned buildings to rubble and injured thousands of people.

There have also been accusations of negligence against Lebanese authorities. Nearly 20 people have been detained in Lebanon after the blast including port and customs officials.

Russia’s national Interpol bureau declined to comment.

Mr Grechushkin, 43, was questioned in Cyprus in August but has not yet responded to reports that his arrest has been sought by Lebanon.

Christos Andreou, a spokesman for Cyprus police, said they had “not received such a request,” referring to Interpol.

Mr Prokoshev, who is in Russia, said he had not heard anything about it and that he has not been contacted by investigators before.

He has told Reuters that 2,750 tonnes of the chemicals ended up in Beirut after the ship’s owner told him to divert to Beirut to pick up extra cargo in 2013.

He has also said Lebanese authorities paid little attention to the ammonium nitrate, which had been stacked in the hull in large sacks.

The Rhosus had loaded ammonium nitrate in Georgia, shipping records show, before making the unscheduled stop in Lebanon.

But it never left, becoming tangled in a legal dispute over unpaid port fees and ship defects.