MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday it had not made any new deliveries of military helicopters to Syria but had sent repaired aircraft to the violence-torn country “many years ago”.
In its most direct response yet to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments that Washington had information attack helicopters were on the way from Russia to Syria, the Foreign Ministry said Moscow’s arms cooperation with Damascus was limited to “defensive” technology.
“There are no new deliveries of Russian military helicopters to Syria. All arms industry cooperation with Syria is limited to a transfer of defensive arms,” the ministry said on its website.
“Regarding helicopters, there were previously planned repairs of military equipment delivered to Syria many years ago.”
Russia faces increasing Western criticism over arms supplies to Syria where the United Nations says government forces have killed more than 10,000 people in a crackdown on an uprising that began with pro-democracy protests in March 2011.
Russia says it is fulfilling existing contracts for air defense systems supplies for use against external attacks and is not sending Syria weapons that could be used in the internal conflict.
A source close to Russia’s arms exporting monopoly Rosoboronexport said that Clinton’s comments on Tuesday may have referred to helicopters that had been sent to Russia in 2009 for repairs and may be on the way back to Syria.
Reporting by Thomas Grove and Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Robin Pomeroy