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Russia starts missile supply to India amid US sanctions threat

The development comes ahead of Putin’s expected visit to India. (Source: Reuters)

(REUTERS): Russia has started supplying India with S-400 air defence missile systems, Russian news agencies reported on Sunday citing Dmitry Shugayev, the head of the Russian military cooperation agency.

“The first deliveries have already started,” Shugayev said at an aerospace trade show in Dubai, the Interfax news agency reported. India will have the first unit of the defense system by the end of this year, according to the official.

The supplies put India at risk of sanctions from the United States under a 2017 US law aimed at deterring countries from buying Russian military hardware.

The development comes ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s expected visit to India next month. The $5.5 billion deal for five long-range surface-to-air missile systems, which India says it needs to counter a threat from China, was signed in 2018.

India faces a range of financial sanctions from the United States under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which names Russia an adversary alongside North Korea and Iran for its actions against Ukraine, interference in the US 2016 elections and help to Syria.

India pressed on with the deal despite Washington’s warnings that a waiver from CAATSA was unlikely, maintaining that it has strategic ties with both Russia and the US.

Lloyd Austin, the US secretary of defense, reiterated during his March visit to India that all US allies and partners should shun Russian hardware and “avoid any kind of acquisition that would trigger sanctions.”

Last year the United Stated imposed sanctions citing CAATSA on NATO ally Turkey for acquiring S-400 missiles from Russia. The sanctions targeted the main Turkish defence procurement and development body Presidency of Defence Industries.

Washington also removed Turkey from a F-35 stealth fighter jet programme, the most advanced aircraft in the US arsenal, used by NATO members and other US allies.

Russia said it had offered Turkey its help in developing advanced fighter jets but no agreement has been reached so far. “We are still at a stage of negotiations on this project,” RIA new agency quoted Shugayev as saying on Sunday.