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Planeloads of Syrian currency exposed, but does the Kremlin care?

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Until last year, Syrian banknotes were printed by Austria's official Oesterreichische Banknoten- und Sicherheitsdruck, but the European Union has passed 19 rounds of sanctions against Syria, including a ban on minting currency, since the rebellion began in March 2011. According to reports, Assad this year turned to Russia's Goznak official mint to provide him with a steady cash flow.

Significant money

ProPublica quoted Ibrahim Saif, a political economist based in Jordan, as saying the quantities of money being provided by Russia are very significant for a country of Syria's size.

"I truly believe it’s not only that they’re exchanging old money for new notes. They are printing money because they need new notes," Mr. Saif is quoted as saying.

"Most of the government revenue that comes from taxes, in terms of other services, it’s almost now dried up," he added.

Yet, "they continue to pay salaries. They have not shown any signs of weakness in fulfilling their domestic obligations. The only way they can do this is to get some sort of cash in the market."

Russian officials have not yet commented on the report, but they have in the past staunchly defended Moscow's long-standing "political and technical cooperation" with Syria, which includes an estimated $5 billion in outstanding arms contracts with Syria.

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