Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said the cargo plane launched in Serbia had weapons destined for Bangladesh on board. Serbia does not issue licenses for arms exports to Russia or Ukraine.

A Ukrainian cargo plane with weapons and mines bound for Bangladesh crashed in north-eastern Greece, killing all eight people on board, according to Serbian sources. The Antonov plane, which took off from Serbia, belonged to the Ukrainian airline Meridian, and the eleven-ton cargo was owned by the Serbian company Valir, Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Sunday. He rejected media reports that the weapons were destined for Ukraine.

According to the Greek news agency ANA, the Antonov AN-12 crashed near the village of Paleochori late on Saturday evening on the way from Serbia to Jordan. According to information from the television station ERT, the crew had asked for emergency landing permission at Kavala Airport, but had not been able to do so by then. Eyewitnesses reported that the plane caught fire before the crash. Because of further explosions, the fire brigade could not approach the crash site at first.

Serbia does not export arms to Russia or Ukraine

The machine took off from Nis Airport in southern Serbia at around 8.40 p.m., said Defense Minister Stefanovic. The arms delivery had been agreed with Bangladesh’s defense ministry and was carried out strictly in accordance with “international rules”. Stefanovic assured that Serbia has not issued any licenses for arms exports to Russia or Ukraine since 2016.

The Serbian defense minister went on to say that mostly Soviet-style cargo planes owned by Russia, Belarus or Ukraine were used for arms transport. Since Russia and Belarus are under international sanctions because of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, only Ukrainian transport aircraft are used and “requested worldwide”.

Apart from the fact that the machines are owned by Ukrainian companies, there is “no further connection between the cargo and Ukraine”. Any speculation to the contrary in the media is “completely wrong,” said the minister.