MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport on Thursday denied reports that Moscow has agreed to deliver S-300 air defense systems to Azerbaijan, reported the Itar-Tass news agency.
“A contract of Russia and Azerbaijan to supply anti-aircraft missile systems S-300 does not exist,” company spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko said as quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency.
Earlier Thursday, the Russian business daily Vedomosti reported that Rosoboronexport had signed an agreement with the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry for the supply of two S-300 PMU-2 (Favorit) battalions last year.
The Vedomosti daily reported, citing Russian arms industry sources that Azerbaijan last year signed a deal with Russia’s state arms exporter to purchase two batteries of S-300 anti-aircraft systems, according to Reuters.
Vedomosti quoted an unidentified Russian military official as saying Azerbaijan had probably purchased the anti-aircraft system to help secure itself against any deterioration in the situation involving neighboring Iran.
Azerbaijan has also spent billions of dollars over the past decade in building its armed forces in an effort to tilt the balance in a long-running conflict with Armenia over the rebel region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The report went as far as to say the S-300 was unlikely to be of much use in any renewed fighting over Karabakh, since Armenia does not possess the kind of modern strike aircraft or missiles that such a sophisticated system would normally be deployed against.
A spokesman for the Azeri Defense Ministry declined to confirm the purchase, saying only: “The Azeri army is strengthening itself, and will continue to strengthen itself.”
Russia has held back delivery of the same S-300 system to Iran after throwing its support behind new United Nations sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.
Citing the Moscow Defense Brief military journal, Vedomosti said the $300 million price tag for the Azeri deal would make it the largest arms purchase by any ex-Soviet state other than Russia.
In Russia’s armed forces, an S-300 battery normally consists of four truck-mounted installations, each with four missiles held in metal tubes.