Russia has allegedly agreed to cancel a proposed shipment of six S-300 advanced surface-air-missile (SAM) batteries under contract to Syria, a senior Russian official has said on condition of anonymity.
The official was quoted by The Sunday Times as saying that the move follows signing of an agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in Russia, earlier this month.
After being convinced that the systems may land into the wrong hands and be used to attack civilian aircraft at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport and push the Middle East into war, Putin decided to scrap the contract on the condition that Israel refrain from launching further air strikes on Syria, the official further said.
”We are very much concerned about this; the large Russian community in Israel is a major factor in our attitude to Israel, and we will not let this happen,” the Russian official added.
The report, however, has been dismissed by Israel which opposes the S-300 sale to Syria, labelling the report as a ‘fairy tale’, and ‘another piece of fantasising.’
An unnamed Israeli government official was quoted by Ynetnews.com as saying that no such agreement or understanding has been reached between Putin and Netanyahu.
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"It’s likely there would be a great deal of foot-dragging by the Russians, who would use it as a bargaining chip without following through with the deal,” the official added.
Moscow, which received an $800m contract for supply of four S-300 missile systems to Damascus in 2010, has already postponed the shipment of the first batch in wake of Israel’s request last year.
Developed by NPO Almaz Bureau, S-300 is a mobile, long-range air defence system designed to detect, track and destroy incoming cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and high and low-flying aircraft.
Code-named Favourite, the high-precision missile system is capable of tracking up to 100 simultaneous targets from a distance of 150km.
Image: An S-300 anti-aircraft missile system during the 2009 Victory Parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia. Photo: kremlin.ru.