MOSCOW: Russia said Wednesday it was delivering military hardware and light weapons to the governments of Syria and Mali as it expands sales and maintains its footing in some of the world’s deadliest conflicts.
The head of Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Anatoly Isaikin, said Russian deliveries to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad included air defence systems but not the advanced Iskander missiles sought by Damascus.
“We are continuing to fulfil our obligations on contracts for the delivery of military hardware,” Isaikin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
He also rejected reports that Russia was planning to supply advanced MiG29-M fighters to Damascus while confirming that it had a deal outstanding for Yak-130 trainer jets.
Isaikin said Syria currently ranked “13th or 14th in terms of volume” on the list of nations receiving Russian arms supplies.
Russia has been repeatedly condemned by Western and Arab nations for maintaining links to the Syrian government despite violence that UN estimates show has claimed more than 70,000 lives.
Its shipment this year of repaired attack helicopters to the regime was disclosed by the media and drew a furious response from former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Isaikin also revealed that Moscow had recent military contacts with the government of Mali as it wages a French-led campaign to expel armed groups of Islamic militants from its land.
He said small amounts of light weapons were already being delivered to Mali and that new sales were under discussion.
“We have delivered firearms. Literally two weeks ago another consignment was sent. These are completely legal deliveries,” said Isaikin said.
“We are in talks about sending more, in small quantities.”