Done deal: Russia supplies cruise missiles to Syria
Objecting to Western fears that the defensive weapons system will fall into the hands of terrorist groups, a diplomatic source says that Moscow has fulfilled its obligations as laid out in the five-year-old contract.
"The Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles have been supplied as part of Bastion mobile coastal missile systems," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Interfax.
However, delivery of the weapons systems is just the first part of the process, and now “more time is needed to complete Syrian personnel training," the source said, adding that the missile system will “enable Syria to protect its entire coast from a possible seaborne attack."
Damascus is expecting to receive at least two Bastion systems with 36 Yakhont missiles per each system.
According to unofficial estimates, the contract carries a $300 million price tag.
The announcement comes as a Russian naval group, led by the nuclear aircraft-carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is en route to the Syrian port of Tartus.
Russian military officials rejected suggestions that the naval visit has any connection with the present turmoil gripping the Arab republic, saying the visit was planned a year ago. In addition to Syria, the aircraft carrier and its escort ships will pull into port at the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Genoa in Italy and Cyprus, says the former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Viktor Kravchenko.
Speaking on the missile delivery to Syria, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told reporters earlier this year that Russia intended to fulfill the 2007 contract.
"We are going to supply Yakhonts to Syria. We are going to fulfill the contract," he said.
The defense minister says Russia, unlike the US and Israel, is confident the technology will not fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.
"The United States and Israel are asking us not to supply Yakhonts to Syria, but we do not share their fears that these weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists," Serdyukov said.
"Russia strictly specifies the terms of weapons supply and maintenance and properly formalizes end-user certificates. And they [the Syrian side] undertake commitments," he explained.
The Yakhont 3M55E supersonic anti-ship cruise missile is capable of hitting targets at ranges of up to 300 km and carrying a warhead weighing more than 200 kg and can combat single surface ships or groups of ships under heavy fire and electronic counteraction.
The completion of the deal comes at a time of increasing political uncertainty for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is struggling to maintain his grip on power in the face of a nine-month conflict with anti-government protesters.
With the situation in Syria appearing to be teetering on civil war, many observers fear another “Libyan-scenario” will occur complete with another NATO military operation.
Russia roundly criticized the NATO’s handling of the Libyan crisis, saying the military alliance overstepped their UN-mandated obligations to protect innocent civilians and worked aggressively on the side of the rebels to depose former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi is believed to have been summarily executed just moments after being captured by rebel militia on Oct. 11, 2001 in his hometown of Sirte.