Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected this week a claim by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Moscow is sending a new shipment of attack helicopters to Damascus.
Russia, which has shipped billions of dollars’ worth of missiles, tanks, artillery and other military gear to Syria over more than four decades, has continued to do so during the 16-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.
A report in The Associated Press on Thursday revealed some weapons systems Russia has recently shipped to Syria or pledged to deliver. The report is based on official statements and Russian media reports.
The report noted that Syria has received dozens of Soviet-built Mi-8 and Mi-17 transport helicopters and Mi-24 helicopter gunships since the Cold War, with the last deliveries taking place in the 1990s. Some of the helicopters require major repairs that can only be done by Russian repair plants.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said this week, according to the report, that three refurbished helicopters were on their way to Syria after being out of commission for at least six months. She said that although they are not new tools, the U.S. is nevertheless concerned that the helicopters will be used by President Bashar Assad's regime to kill civilians.
Syria has also received a Pantsyr-S1 air defense system from Russia, said AP. The truck-mounted short- and medium-range system combines air defense missiles and anti-aircraft artillery with sophisticated radar to hit aerial targets with deadly precision at ranges of up to 20 kilometers and an altitude of 15 kilometers. The system has further strengthened Syria's air defense system, which has been developed with Moscow's help since Cold War times.
According to Igor Sevastyanov, a deputy head of the Rosoboronexport state arms trader, the Pantsyr contract is still being implemented. Russian media reports have said that the contract envisioned the delivery of 36 such truck-mounted units which combine guns and missiles together with a radar.
Another air defense system, the BUK-M2, is a medium-range missile system capable of hitting enemy aircraft and cruise missiles at ranges of up to 50 kilometers and an altitude of up to 25 kilometers. It is a sophisticated weapon that is capable of inflicting heavy losses to enemy aircraft if Syria comes under attack, noted AP.
The Bastion anti-ship missile system is armed with supersonic cruise missiles that have a range of up to 300 kilometers and provides a strong deterrent against an attack from the sea. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said last fall that Moscow would fully honor the Bastion contract. Russian media reports said that Russia already has fulfilled the Bastion deal, which was worth $300 million, and included the delivery of more than 70 Yakhont missiles.
Finally, according to the AP report, Russian media reports said early this year that Syria had ordered a batch of 36 Yak-130 combat jets worth $550 million. Officials wouldn't confirm or deny the deal, which would significantly bolster the Syrian air force capability.
The Yak-130 is a combat training jet that can also carry modern weapons for ground attack missions, but analysts say early deliveries are unlikely as the aircraft's pace of production is very slow.
The report also noted that a Russian ship carrying a load of weapons arrived in Syria just a few weeks ago.
The new Russian weapons supplies add to Syria's massive arsenal of hundreds of Soviet-built combat jets, attack helicopters and missiles and thousands of tanks, other armored vehicles and artillery systems. Russia said it also has military advisers in Syria training the Syrians to use the Russian weapons, and has helped repair and maintain Syrian weapons.