Lebanese President Michel Aoun has requested that Russian authorities provide satellite images of the Beirut port at the time of last year’s 4 August explosion, according to his press office.
“President Aoun asked the Russian ambassador to notify his country of Lebanon’s desire to receive images from the space satellites of the port of Beirut at the time of the explosion,” his office said.
Aoun made the request during a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Rudakov.
On 4 August 2020, Beirut was rattled by a massive explosion as hundreds of tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate exploded.
It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever documented, killing more than 200 people, and injuring thousands.
The French were the first western investigators to enter the Port of Beirut, arriving two days after the explosion, at the request of Lebanon’s Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat. Ten days later, they were joined by British investigators, followed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A close examination of the contents of these western reports reveals that they did not substantially add much to the local investigation, but rather confirmed the conclusions regarding the explosion reached by the Lebanese investigators.
Since then, the Beirut explosion case has been heavily politicized by the United States, and the lead investigative judge Tarek Bitar stands accused of ignoring the culpability of Lebanon’s judicial and military institutions, which are the main bodies legally responsible for the storing of the nitrates in the port.
Some of Lebanon’s many and varied political actors, including the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, have cast doubt on Bitar’s performance and intent. These doubts have emerged because of what appears to be Bitar’s selective exclusion of certain politicians and security officials from suspicion and prosecution – particularly the current Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) General Joseph Aoun and former Director of Army Intelligence Toni Mansour.
The satellite images from Russia may help clarify the complex tangle of events that led to the explosion of the ammonium nitrates.