Russia may not deliver a hugely controversial consignment of S-300 air defense missile systems to the Syrian regime this year, two Russian newspapers reported Friday, rejecting claims the weapons had already arrived in the country.
The Vedomosti daily cited a Russian defense industry source as saying it was unclear if the weapons would be delivered to Syria this year while the Kommersant daily quoted its source as saying that delivery was only planned in the second quarter of 2014.
President Bashar al-Assad appeared to imply in an interview with Al-Manar television broadcast Thursday that Russia had already delivered some of the promised ground-to-air S-300 missile systems.
But both sources quoted by Kommersant and Vedomosti said that no delivery of the missiles had taken place yet. The contract was agreed in 2010 and according to Vedomosti is worth $1 billion.
Kommersant added that after delivery in 2014, a minimum of another six months would be needed for the training of personnel and tests before the systems were fully operational.
The source quoted by Vedomosti meanwhile said that while the Russian government is currently insisting in public that the contract will be fulfilled, this does not mean that the actual deliveries will ever take place.
No further details were given.
The widely-admired missile systems are seen by analysts as having huge military importance for Assad in the conflict against rebels as the weapons could be used to ward off Western or Israeli air strikes against regime targets.