Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says his country has not yet decided to supply advanced S-300 missile defense systems to Syria, adding that the issue will be made public if Moscow makes such a decision.
Russia’s TASS news agency cited Lavrov as saying on Monday that the question of providing Syria with S-300 air defense systems had not been settled yet and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the issue with Defense Ministry officials to reach a conclusion.
“We’ll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take,” he said. “There is probably no secret about this and it can all be announced (if a decision is taken).”
The top Russian diplomat stressed that Moscow was determined to help avoid a situation in which Damascus was not prepared enough for "aggressive actions" like the massive airstrike conducted by the US, France and the UK earlier this month.
"We know what Russian President Vladimir Putin said. He has discussed such matters with an official of our Defense Ministry from the standpoint of preventing a situation where Syria might turn out insufficiently prepared for aggressive attacks, like the one that occurred on April 14,” Lavrov said.
Earlier in the day, Russia's Kommersant business daily reported that Moscow might start supplying S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems to Syria on a free-of-charge basis in the near future and within the framework of military assistance to the Arab country.
Citing unnamed diplomatic and military sources, the paper said the issue of Russia's supplies of the advanced air defense systems "has practically been resolved."
The Kremlin refused to comment on the report.
Lavrov said on Friday that the latest US missile strikes against Syria had removed any moral obligation for Russia not to deliver advanced S-300 missile defense systems to the Arab country.
On April 14, the US, France and the United Kingdom carried out a missile attack on a number of targets in Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack in the town of Douma that reportedly took place on April 7. Syria has rejected any role in the alleged attack.
International experts from the OPCW on Saturday visited the site of the suspected chemical attack and took samples. The OPCW said in a statement that the samples would be sent to the agency's laboratory in Rijswijk, a suburb of The Hague, and then analyzed by designated labs.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a total of 103 cruise missiles were launched by the United States and its allies, 71 of which were intercepted by Syria’s air defenses. Russian missile systems deployed to the Arab country were not involved in the interception.
Following the strikes, Russia announced it may consider giving Syria S-300 systems so it can defend itself in the face of such acts of aggression.
The announcement has raised fears in Israel, which has been conducting frequent air raids against various targets in Syria in support of anti-Damascus militants.