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Russian businessman whose shipload of explosives ripped apart Beirut is questioned in Cyprus 

The Russian businessman whose explosives blew up Beirut’s port has been interviewed by police at his home in Cyprus - but is likely to avoid any charges.

Igor Grechushkin was asked a ‘list of questions’ by Cypriot investigators in Limassol this afternoon on behalf of the Lebanese authorities, MailOnline can reveal.

A cargo of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, confiscated back in 2014 from a ship called Rhosus owned by Grechushkin, was the cause of Tuesday’s devastating explosion, which has so far killed 135 people and injured 4000 more.

The material, which is used to make fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for around six years in a warehouse at the port without any proper safety measures.

Igor Grechushkin was asked a ‘list of questions’ by Cypriot investigators in Limassol this afternoon on behalf of the Lebanese authorities, MailOnline can reveal

Cypriot police spokesman Christos Andreou said that as the explosives had been seized by Lebanese authorities, who were ultimately responsible for its storage, Grechushkin was not suspected of any wrongdoing.

He said that officers had questioned the Russian businessman at his home for several hours to get a detailed statement.

Mr Andreou said: ‘There was no need to call him in because he is not facing any charges, nor is it likely that he will.

‘The request came in late Thursday and we acted on it immediately. It was a list of questions that authorities in Beirut wanted Grechushkin to answer.’

A cargo of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, confiscated back in 2014 from a ship called Rhosus owned by Grechushkin, was the cause of Tuesday’s devastating explosion, which has so far killed 135 people and injured 4000 more

Mr Andreou refused to elaborate, but he conceded that the questions concerned ‘clarifications and explanations concerning the vessel and its cargo.’

Grechushkin lives with his wife, Irina Grechushkina and youngest son Miron in Limassol, a Cypriot city with an estimated 50,000 strong Russian ex-pat community. 

Grechushkin’s cargo ship Rhosus left the former Soviet state of Georgia in September 2013 carrying the explosives, which were destined for Mozambique in Eastern Africa.

However when the 40-year-old vessel docked in Beirut a month later after apparently experiencing technical problems, authorities in Lebanon halted its onward journey not deeming it seaworthy.

The material, which is used to make fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for around six years in a warehouse at the port without any proper safety measures

According to reports, Grechushkin claimed to be unable to pay the port docking fees before declaring himself bankrupt and abandoning the ship, it's contents and crew consisting of eight Ukrainians and two Russians.

The ship’s captain at the time, Boris Prokoshev and three crew members were forced to remain on board for nearly a year until the debt issue was resolved.

The ammonium nitrate, meanwhile, was later removed from the ship and stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s docks, where senior custom officials wrote to the Lebanese courts at least six times between 2014 and 2017 requesting that the material be removed and disposed of properly.

Lebanon has since placed every official responsible for the security of Beirut's port for the last six years under house arrest.

According to reports, Grechushkin claimed to be unable to pay the port docking fees before declaring himself bankrupt and abandoning the ship, it's contents and crew consisting of eight Ukrainians and two Russians 

The country's political leaders vowed those responsible for the tragedy would 'pay the price', but customs officials pointed the finger of blame back at them - saying they were repeatedly warned of the danger but failed to act. 

Raghida Dergham of the Beirut Institute yesterday said: 'Storing Ammonium Nitrate in a civilian port is a crime against humanity that must not go unpunished. 

'Condemnations are not enough. I'm safe but devastated. I lost friends. I lost my apartment. Had I been home, I would have lost my life.'

An official source familiar with preliminary investigations blamed the incident on negligence. Lebanese citizens directed anger at politicians who have overseen decades of state corruption and bad governance that plunged the nation into financial crisis.   

The blast threatens to reignite anti-government protests in Lebanon that have been ongoing since last year amid allegations of entrenched incompetence and corruption (aftermath of the blast pictured)

Video taken of the area around the same time shows fire crews at the scene along with heavy grey sliding doors. Beirut's governor has confirmed that 10 firefighters are missing following the blast

Director General of Lebanese Customs Badri Daher said the country's judiciary was told six times about the hazardous chemicals stored in a warehouse in the Lebanese capital. 

Customs officials are understood to have asked authorities to move the dangerous substance from Hangar 12 due to the danger they believe it posed to the city and given to the army or sold to an explosives company.

'We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why,' Daher said.

However, just before 6pm local time in Beirut on Tuesday a fire broke out at a nearby warehouse and spread to the one containing the ammonium nitrate.

The cause of the initial blaze is as of yet unknown, some have blamed sparks from welders sealing a gap while others have noted that a series of bangs which preceded the huge blast suggest fireworks may have been the source.

As a plume of thick smoke rose above Beirut, a massive blast, heard nearly 200 miles away in Cyprus, tore through the city causing billions of pounds worth of damage and leaving as many as 300,000 people homeless. 

CAPTAIN OF BUSINESSMAN'S SHIP THAT CARRIED EXPLOSIVES 'REGULARLY' SOUNDED ALARM 

The captain of a Russian ship carrying a cargo of ammonium nitrate which was impounded in Beirut said he regularly sounded the alarm over the 'power keg', years before it exploded and destroyed large parts of the city.

Boris Prokoshev, who was at the helm of tanker Rhosus in 2013 when it had to make an emergency stop in Lebanon, said he wrote to Vladimir Putin regularly about the dangerous vessel after it was impounded.

Prokoshev, now 70, said Igor Grechushkin, the owner of the vessel and the ammonium on board, had 'washed his hands' of the vessel, leaving the crew and cargo stranded for months. 

The crew were freed the following year and the ammonium placed in a warehouse where it sat for six years, until it was ignited by a fire earlier this week - causing a blast that has killed at least 137 people and wounded 5,000. 

Prokoshev explained that the Rhosus was en route from Batumi, in Georgia, to Mozambique with its dangerous cargo when it had to make an unscheduled stop in Beirut due to trouble with its radar and engine.

The vessel spent more than a year in port, with Prokoshev and a handful of Ukrainian sailors aboard, as the Lebanese tried to extract fees and fines from Grechushkin.

Prokoshev claims that he wrote to Putin 'every month' while the ship was being held, adding: 'The vessel's owner abandoned it.

'The owner abandoned the cargo, ammonium nitrate. It is an explosive substance. And we were abandoned too.

'We were living on a powder keg for ten months without being paid.'

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