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U.S. Senators Cite Syria In Call To Cut Off Russian Arms Exporter

Rosoboroneksport headquarters in Moscow (file photo)
WASHINGTON -- A group of 17 U.S. senators has called on the Department of Defense to stop doing business with Russian state-controlled arms exporter Rosoboroneksport over its arming of the Syrian regime.

In a letter sent to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the senators say, "U.S. taxpayers should not be put in a position where they are indirectly subsidizing the mass murder of Syrian civilians."

The letter cited reports of Russia's nearly $1 billion in arms sales to Syria last year and a reported January deal to supply President Bashar al-Assad's forces with 36 combat jets.

The United Nations says more than 7,500 people have died in Assad's crackdown on Arab Spring-style protests and insurrection.

"Wired" magazine reports that the U.S. Defense Department is in the process of buying 21 helicopters from Rosoboroneksport for Afghan security forces in a no-bid contract that could total $900 million.