The Cypriot police announced on Thursday that they were interrogating Russia, according to information that it was linked to the ship that carried a shipment of ammonium nitrate to the port of Beirut and was behind the big explosion that shook the city on Tuesday.
A Cypriot police spokesman confirmed to AFP, “The Lebanese authorities have asked us to locate this person and ask questions about him, and this is what we have done”.
“Those answers were sent to Lebanon,” he added, noting that the man named Igor Grichushkin had not been arrested, but rather was subjected to interrogation about the cargo of the ship at the request of the International Police Office (Interpol) in Lebanon.
The explosion was caused by a fire that broke out in a warehouse where about 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate have been stored for six years, “without any preventive measures,” according to the Lebanese authorities.
It killed at least 137 people, injured thousands, and displaced tens of thousands, while dozens are still missing.
In 2013, the ship “Rhosus” stopped over at the port of Beirut, coming from Georgia, on its way to Mozambique.
It was loaded with the chemical ammonium nitrate, a security source told AFP.
Ammonium nitrate is an odorless white salt that is used as the basis for many nitrogenous fertilizers, and has caused a number of industrial accidents, including the explosion of the E factory, Zed F in the French city of Toulouse in 2001.
Several media outlets, including the American “New York Times” newspaper, said that Grechushkin had chartered the ship, which was forced to dock in Beirut due to damage to its hull.
According to the “Marine Traffic” website, the ship arrived in Beirut on 20 November 2013 and never left, after encountering technical problems.
Several security sources suggested to France Press that the ship passed in the form of a transit in Beirut.
However, during its suspension, a Lebanese company filed a case with the judge of urgent matters against the company that owns it, and it was seized by the judiciary, then its cargo was unloaded, because it was suffering from damage and wear.
The ammonium nitrate shipments were held in Ward No. 12 for the storage of stranded and confiscated goods.
Earlier Thursday, the Cypriot Ministry of Interior denied information that the Russian possessed a Cypriot passport, and offered to provide assistance to Lebanon.
According to the Cyprus newspaper “Politis”, Grichushkin lives in Limassol, which is an important transit center in the Mediterranean, with his Russian wife who holds a Cypriot passport.