Russia has suspended its contract with Syria for the supply of deadly anti-aircraft missile systems, a Russian newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The delivery of S-300 long range missile systems has been halted “on orders from the higher up”, the Vedomosti newspaper said citing Russian defence industry sources.
According to an annual report of an S-300 factory that was accidentally published online on Tuesday, the factory has a $105-million contract to supply three S-300 batteries to Syria in 2012-early 2013.
By refusing to supply Russia’s most potent air defence systems to Syria, the Kremlin demonstrated its restraint to the West – which has been accusing Moscow of indiscriminate arming of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad – said a leading defence analyst.
“Russia showed consideration for Western concerns hoping for a reciprocal understanding of its concerns,” Ruslan Pukhov, head of the CAST think tank, told The Hindu.
The expert does not think the S-300 would have been a game changer for Syria.
“If the West launches a massive attack the S-300 would not save Syria from defeat,” he said. “At the same time, Russia has recently supplied Syria with powerful shorter-range air defence systems that proved their effectiveness in the downing of a Turkish fighter last week.”
Military experts believe the Turkish F-4 Phantom was shot down by the anti-aircraft guns of the Russian-built Pantsir-S1 short-to-medium range air defence system, which can also fire missiles. Russia has also supplied Syria with longer range Buk-M2 air defence missiles.
“The F-4 incident showed that the Syrian air defences are combat-ready and capable of inflicting losses on attackers,” said Lieutenant General Leonid Sazhin, a military expert. “We have been training Syrian military personnel for decades and they have learned their skills well.”
Russian analysts said Moscow would continue to provide Syrian with defensive weapons.
“There is consensus in Russia on the Syrian crisis,” said Mr. Pukhov of the CAST centre. “After Libya there are no takers in Moscow for U.S. demands to stop selling arms to a legitimate government while the Americans supply weapons to rebels.”