Russia gave Lebanon an early Christmas gift of 10 MiG fighter jets today in a deal to boost defence co-operation.
The MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters would be provided for free to Lebanon under an agreement on military-technical assistance, the head of Russia’s defence co-operation service said. Mikhail Dmitryev said that the jets would be taken from Russia’s existing stock.
He said that Moscow was also in talks to supply Beirut with heavy armour, adding that supplies of such weaponry were “now possible after the situation in this nation has stabilised”. He said: “We view the Lebanese army as the main guarantor of this nation’s stability, therefore the armed forces of this country must be strengthened.” The deal followed a meeting in Moscow between Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his Lebanese counterpart Elias Murr. Mr Serdyukov said that Russia had received a detailed list of armaments sought by Lebanon.
When details of the deal first emerged on Tuesday, it was suggested that the aircraft would be sold at a hefty discount. But Mr Dmitryev confirmed today that they would be free, with delivery paid by the Russian Defence Ministry, saying: “Military-technical assistance, this means assistance in budgetary funds.” The MiG-29s, one of Russia’s best fighter jets, will provide considerable additional firepower for the Lebanese air force, which currently has only five outdated Hawker Hunter jets and 16 helicopters.