The Russian government is denying a news report that President Vladimir Putin approved a deal to sell his country’s advanced S-300 air-defense system to Iran, the Christian Science Monitor reported late on Wednesday.
Russia's Kommersant newspaper published an article on Wednesday saying Putin had decided to deliver five batteries of S-300VM Antei-2500 anti-aircraft complexes to Tehran, in return for Iran voiding a lawsuit against Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport. The S-300, which is comparable to the United States’ long-range Patriot missile defense system, could help Iran fend off potential airstrikes targeting its nuclear facilities.
Yet Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reportedly denied the Kommersant revelation, saying Wednesday on Ekho Moskvy radio that “Vladimir Putin did not give instructions for the question of supplying modified S-300 complexes to be studied,” according to the Monitor.
Also, while answering questions from reporters the same day, Peskov replied “no” when asked if Putin ordered the completion of the S-300 deal with Iran, Russia Today reported on Thursday.
Presidential aide Yuri Ushakov, though, said the Putin and his Iranian counterpart on Friday would confer in depth on "various aspects of military-technical cooperation," during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization forum in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Russian officials might rely on the potential sale as a bargaining chip in dealing with Washington, former U.S. National Intelligence Council officer Fiona Hill told the Monitor.
“This is how they always play on these sort of issues,” Hill said. “Just because they appear to be cooperative on this issue … does not change their overall activity on all the Middle East issues."