Russia has signed a deal with the United States for the supply of 21 helicopters to Afghanistan, said a senior Kremlin official.

Russian arms export corporation Rosoboronexport signed a contract with the U.S. Army Forces Command on supplying 21 Mi-17V5 multipurpose helicopters to Afghanistan, said Sergei Prikhodko, a foreign policy aide to President Dmitry Medvedev. “It is the first large contract Russia signed directly with the U.S. Ministry of Defence,” Mr. Prikhodko told the RIA Novosti news agency on Saturday.

He attached significance to the fact that the deal was sealed during the G8 summit in Deauville, France.

“The contract marks a major step in closer practical cooperation between Russia and the U.S. to improve the combat capability of the Afghan army.”

The U.S. agreed to foot the bill after Moscow turned down a NATO request to supply the helicopters for free. Under the contract worth over $300 million, Russia will deliver nine helicopters later this year and the remaining 12 over 2012.

Russia will also provide spare parts, ground support equipment and maintenance services.

The Afghan military have over 40 Russian-built helicopters.