Russian army hints at providing advanced air defences to Assad

Statement comes a day after Israeli defence minister says Tel Aviv would destroy the system if it is ‘used against’ it.

Damascus strikes
The report did not specify what kind of system would be given to Damascus [Hassan Ammar/AP]

The Russian army has hinted that it would supply the Syrian government with a sophisticated air defence system.

Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi said on Wednesday that Moscow would supply Damascus with “new missile defence systems soon”.

The statement did not specify what kind of system would be given to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a major ally of Russia.

On Monday, Russian daily Kommersant reported that Moscow was close to delivering its S-300 missile defence system, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied the report, saying his country had not yet decided on whether to deliver the system or not.

“We’ll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency.

“There is probably no secret about this, and it can all be announced [if a decision is taken]”.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, said on Tuesday that Tel Aviv would strike the S-300 anti-aircraft defence system if it is “used against” it.

“One thing should be clear 0 if someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them … What’s important to us is that the weapons defence systems that the Russians transfer to Syria are not used against us,” Lieberman told Israeli website Ynet.

“If they are used against us, we will act against them.”

However, Russia’s ambassador to Israel, Alexander Shein, sought to downplay the potential transaction’s importance, stressing that Israel was not the target of the defence system.

“I can’t imagine any such scenario,” Shein said in response to Lieberman’s threat.

“We are mutually coordinating and updating about Syria … So far, there have been no incidents between us, nor even hints at incidents, and I hope there will not be.”

Top Russian officials have said that in light of Western air raids on Syria earlier this month, Moscow may reconsider a pledge it gave a decade ago not to provide Syria with the S-300 system.

The attacks by the United States, Britain and France were in retaliation to an April 7 suspected chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma, near Damascus, that killed dozens of people, according to rescuers and medics.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies