Tensions between Moscow and Ankara flaredyesterday when a Russian daily reported that Russian S-300 air defensemissiles had been delivered to Cyprus. A representative of the Russian statearms trading company Rosvooruzhenie later denied the report, saying that themissile complexes were still in Russia and would not arrive in Cyprus untilAugust. However, the initial report led Turkey’s defense minister to warnanew that Turkey would not tolerate deployment of the S-300s in Cyprus.
Turkey has been incensed by the $200 million missile deal, finalized betweenCyprus and Russia early last year, and has threatened to use force to stopdelivery of the missiles. The United States has also criticized the deal,arguing that it has exacerbated already tense relations between Greece andTurkey over Cyprus. The Kremlin, in turn, has defended the missile sale as apurely commercial venture that violates no international norms. Russianofficials also say that the S-300s are a purely defensive system and thusare neither a threat to Turkey nor a destabilizing factor in the region.They claim that Western objections to the sale are in fact aimed atthwarting Russian arms manufacturers from getting a foothold in a lucrativemarket.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin yesterday echoed thatsentiment. Without affirming or denying delivery of the S-300 systems toCyprus, he denounced what he suggested is a Western media campaign aimed atundermining military cooperation between Russia and Cyprus. (AP, Itar-Tass,June 9)
CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN BASHKORTOSTAN.