Report: Russia to deliver combat jets to Syria

Posted on January 23, 2012

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has signed a contract to sell combat jets to Syria, a newspaper reported Monday, in apparent support for President Bashar Assad and open defiance of international condemnation of his regime’s bloody crackdown.

The respected business daily Kommersant, citing an unidentified source close to Russia’s Rosoboronexport state arms trader, said the $550-million deal envisions the delivery of 36 Yak-130 aircraft. A spokesman for Rosoboronexport refused to comment on the report.

If confirmed, the deal would cement Russian opposition to international efforts to put pressure on Assad’s regime over its attempts to snuff out the country’s uprising. The U.N. says more than 5,400 people have died over 10 months. The report of the sale comes the same day that Human Rights Watch called Russia’s backing of the Syrian regime “immoral.”

The Yak-130 is a twin-engined combat trainer jet that can also be used to attack ground targets. The Russian air force has recently placed an order for 55 such jets.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that Moscow doesn’t consider it necessary to offer an explanation or excuses over suspicions that a Russian ship had delivered munitions to Syria despite an EU arms embargo.

Russia was acting in full respect of international law and wouldn’t be guided by unilateral sanctions imposed by other nations, he said.

Lavrov also accused the West of turning a blind eye to attacks by opposition militants and supplies of weapons to the Syrian opposition from abroad and warned that Russia will block any attempt by the West to secure United Nations support for the use of force against Syria.

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