Not wanting to “upset the balance” of power, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday his country hasn’t yet delivered missile defense systems to Syria.
However, the enigmatic leader is also trying to defend the move in light of international condemnation.
“It’s perhaps the best such weapon in the world,” Putin said at a news conference in Yekaterinburg, according to The Associated Press.
“It’s indeed a serious weapon. We don’t want to throw the region off balance. ... The contract has been signed a few years ago. It hasn’t been fulfilled yet,” Putin added at a news conference with European Union leaders in the Ural Mountains.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad told a Lebanese TV reporter last week that he expected to receive the S-300 missiles from Russia, sparking outrage among many European governments and the United States.
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The two-year-long Syrian civil war – an attempt to overthrow Assad’s autocratic rule – has killed more than 70,000 people and displaced millions.
Russia said the missiles are for defensive purposes and to dissuade any foreign intervention.
Sales to Syria “are carried out based on transparent, internationally recognized contracts,” Putin said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They don’t violate any international provisions.”
Russia and Syria are longstanding business partners and allies, and the Russians have used their UN Security Council veto to block international intervention in Syria.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry chided Russia after Assad claimed he was expecting Russian weapons.
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