MOSCOW Russian arms exports reached a record $14 billion this year, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, extending a run of record-breaking sales in recent years that have included deliveries to Syria despite the civil war raging there.
The world no. 2 arms exporter has cultivated new weapons clients in Southeast Asia and Africa, despite criticism that it is failing to deliver the technological benefits of Western suppliers or the low costs of emerging weapons exporter China.
"Let's talk about our results - they are positive. We are reaching a record level of weapons exports. Their total volume was above $14 billion," Putin said in a televised meeting with officials.
He said Russia had signed over $15 billion in new export contracts this year alone. He did not spell out when deliveries on those deals were expected.
Russia has faced Western criticism over its weapons sales to the Syrian government, worth nearly $1 billion in 2011.
Moscow says its arms deliveries to Syria, a longtime ally, do not violate international law and are not intended to help President Bashar al-Assad's government fight a 21-month-old uprising, but rather to fulfill Soviet-era commitments.
Russia has made clear it would use its U.N. Security Council Vote to veto an arms embargo against Damascus, contending such a move would be one-sided when rebels are able to obtain weapons via smuggling into territory they now control.
Moscow has reported no major arms deals with Syria this year. A major order of fighter jets was not completed, although it remains unclear as to why. Putin gave no specifics on Russia's main weapons buyers.
Top weapons clients also include Soviet-era client and regional Asian heavyweight India, as well as Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations wary of China's growing military might.
Putin said a major part of Russia's weapons business includes upgrades and refurbishment of Soviet-era technology and hardware. "We understand that competition in this sector of the international economy is very high and very serious," he said.
Exports from the world's top producer, the United States, have hovered around $30 billion annually in recent years.
State arms exporter Rosoboronexport accounts for around 80 percent of all Russian arms sales in a given year and nearly 20 independent firms comprise the rest with sales of spare parts and upgrades.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Mark Heinrich)