Russia for the first time is selling weapons to Bahrain
after the UK and France banned deliveries of security equipment to the Gulf
monarchy because of its crackdown on protesters.
Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-run arms trader, says it
wants more business in Bahrain. The country is selling AK103 Kalashnikovs with
grenade launchers and ammunition for tens of millions of dollars to Bahrain,
according to a person close to the Russian Defense Ministry who declined to be
identified because the information isn’t public.
In February, France and the UK revoked export licenses for
security equipment that could be used to quash internal unrest in Bahrain after
government forces shot dead several protesters.
At least 30 people were killed in this year’s uprising in
Bahrain, a US ally situated between Qatar and Saudi Arabia that is home to the US
Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
“The relationship between Russia and Bahrain has been
increasingly getting stronger,” Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, a Bahraini
government spokesman, said by phone on August 24 from the capital, Manama. “We
are looking to cooperate with Russia in trade and technical services. One of
the fields is in the area of light arms.”
He declined to comment on the details of specific contracts.
Rosoboronexport chief executive officer Anatoly Isaikin last week said Bahrain
has become a new customer for Russian armaments.
“States in the region are interested in Russian air- defense
systems, aviation equipment and weapons for ground forces,” the Moscow-based
company said in an emailed response August 24.
Bahraini security forces allegedly beat paramedics, doctors
and nurses who treated the wounded during the uprising and prosecutors charged
dozens of medical workers with crimes such as “incitement against the regime,”
according to Human Rights Watch.
In June, the US put Bahrain on its list of human-rights
“We will not issue licenses where we judge there is a clear
risk that the proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal
conflicts, or which might be used to facilitate internal repression,” UK
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said on February 18.
Rosoboronexport said a mutually beneficial partnership
between the two countries would help to strengthen Russia’s position among the
Gulf’s US-allied monarchies.
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa sat in the cockpit of
a Russian SU-27 fighter jet at an air show in Manama last year.
“His Majesty’s interest in sitting in a very respectable
Russian fighter jet does mean a lot, and it means that Russian capabilities
today are some of the top in the world,” said Al Khalifa, the government
The Russian government plans to reduce its holdings in
United Shipbuilding Corp. and United Aircraft Corp. to 50 percent and in
Uralvagonzavod to 75 percent, Alexei Uvarov, head of the Economy Ministry’s
property department, which is overseeing Russian privatization plans, said July
27. United Aircraft is the parent company of the maker of Sukhoi jets and
Uralvagonzavod makes modern T-90 battle tanks.
Russia, which is a major arms supplier to Syria, won’t halt
weapons deliveries to its Soviet-era ally, Isaikin said on Aug. 17. “There are
no sanctions and we have received no such government instructions, so we are
obliged to fulfill our contracts,” he said.
Russia signaled its opposition after the US, Britain and
France on Aug. 23 circulated a draft resolution to United Nations Security
Council members that would freeze the foreign assets of Syria’s President
Bashar al-Assad and impose an arms embargo on his country. The UN says 2,200
people have been killed since protests against the Assad family’s 40-year rule
began in March.
Russia has weapons contracts with Syria worth at least $3bn,
according to the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and
Technologies. The orders include Yakhont anti- ship cruise missiles, MiG-29
fighter jets and Pantsir short- range air-defense systems.
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