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Russia: Arms Sales Affect Latin America

Moscow, 28 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Peru has recently announced that it would purchase at least a dozen Russian-made MIG-29 fighters airplanes from Ukraine. The planes were used by the Ukrainian Air Force, which inherited them from the Soviet air forces in 1992.

The planes have an operational range of more than 2,000 kilometers and a maximum speed of 2,400 kilometers per hour. But they have reportedly a shorter lifespan than Western-made fighter airplanes.

The deal, which has been officially confirmed by Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, is estimated to be worth some $384 million. The price of one new MIG-29 is usually around $34 million.

The Moscow newspaper "Izvestia" reported yesterday that Peru had bought a total of 16 single-seated MIG-29s and two double-seated models of the same fighter. The paper also said that Peru acquired an unspecified number of rockets, bombs and ground control systems. But Peru refrained from disclosing the exact number of planes and arms it had purchased.

The deal has reportedly been criticized by the United States and some Latin American countries. Ecuador was reported to have said the purchase of Russian-made jets by Peru could trigger a new arms race in the region. In the 1970s, the United States imposed restrictions on sales of advanced U.S.-made warplanes to Latin America.

Earlier this year Russia sold $40 million worth of Mi-17 helicopters to Columbia, which also signed agreements to produce Russian-designed arms on license.

Furthermore, Russia is expected to sell at least eight multi-purpose Su-30MK fighters airplanes to the Indian Air Force by the end of next year. It has been reported that India is planning to acquire Russian-made T-72C tanks, Smerch artillery systems and high-precision self-propelled artillery vehicles (MSTAs) for its army and several frigates as well as both Kilo and Amur diesel submarines for its navy.

India also plans to buy the Russian Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier. This purchase would leave the Russian navy with only one aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. Last year, Russia sold its Minsk and Novorossiysk aircraft carriers for scrap to South Korea.