Thursday, 11 February 2016 17:25

Russian Engineers Working in ISIS-held Gas Plant in Deir Ezzor

Multiple sources have recently revealed that the Russian construction company Stroytransgaz had resumed work in the Tuweinan gas facility in rural Deir Ezzor after it was captured by ISIS in early 2014. The sources also said that the Russian company sent employees to the facility after it fell to ISIS, adding that Stroytransgaz utilized a Syrian subcontractor, Hesco, which was owned by Russian-Syrian dual national George Haswani.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, the details of the Tuweinan deal brokered between the Islamic State and Hesco was first reported by the Syrian media and the group called "Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently" in October 2014. The group claimed that Hesco signed an agreement with ISIS promising to leave a larger chunk of the profit to the terrorist group. The deal provides 50 megawatts of electricity for the regime, while ISIS receives 70 megawatts of electricity and 300 barrels of condensate. The engineers who worked at the plant said that Hesco also sends ISIS roughly $50,000 every month to protect its valuable equipment.

The partnership between Hesco and Stroytransgaz goes far beyond this one deal. The companies have worked in joint projects in Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, and the UAE since 2000, according to Haswani’s son-in-law, Yusef Arbash, who runs Hesco’s Moscow office.

Haswani has rejected allegations that he worked as a middleman in oil deals between ISIS and the Assad regime. But he has never denied Hesco’s continued work on the gas facility after ISIS captured it.

Syrian rebel groups seized the facility in January 2013. Abu Khalid, a rebel commander, said that Russian engineers and advisors had already fled, leaving Syrian employees behind.

After the facility fell to ISIS in early 2014, Stroytransgaz, through its subcontractor Hesco, continued the facility’s construction with ISIS’s permission. Russian engineers have been working at the facility to complete the project.

In January 2014, Syrian state-run newspaper Tishreen published a report appearing to corroborate these claims. It said that Stroytransgaz had completed 80 percent of the project and expected to hand over the facility to the regime during the second half of the year. The article did not mention that the facility was under ISIS’s control.

According to a letter written by George Haswani explaining the details of the project, the facility’s first phase of production started towards the end of 2014, and it became fully operational during 2015. “Some of the natural gas goes to the Aleppo power station, which operates under ISIS’s protection, and the remainder is pumped to Homs and Damascus,” the letter said.

Russian engineers still work at the facility, and Haswani brokered a deal with ISIS and the regime for mutually beneficial gas production from the facility. “IS allowed the Russian company to send engineers and crew in return for a big share in the gas and extortion money,” Abu Khalid said, attributing the information to Syrian rebel commanders fighting ISIS in the area. “Employees of the Russian company were changing their shifts via a military base in Hama governorate," he added. (Source: Agencies)

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