Russian President Vladmir Putin reportedly froze the transfer of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran after receiving evidence from Israel that Tehran had transferred advanced weapons to Hezbollah.
The Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida published the unconfirmed report on Saturday, citing an unnamed source allegedly “familiar” with Putin.
The source said that Putin scuppered the delivery after Israel showed that Iran had repeatedly attempted to transfer the SA-22 Greyhound short-range air defense system to the Lebanese-based terrorist group.
The report also said that Russian pilots claimed to have detected the presence of advance anti-aircraft systems in Hezbollah-controlled territory straddling the Syria-Lebanon border.
Israel, according to the report, has turned a blind eye to the Iranian-backed group’s possession of the Soviet-made SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missile system, known also as the S-200.
Russia and Iran signed a contract for the delivery of five S-300 batteries in 2007. But in autumn 2010, Russia’s then-president Dmitry Medvedev banned the supply of the systems to Tehran amid escalating global sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. The contract, worth more than $800 million, was annulled and the advance payment returned to the Iranians.
Iran filed a $4 billion lawsuit in the Court of Arbitration in Geneva over breach of the contract. According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow persuaded Tehran to withdraw the lawsuit after “long and tough negotiations.”
In April 2015, shortly after the announcement of the Lausanne outline for the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, Putin lifted the ban on S-300 deliveries to Tehran, over American and Israeli objections.
In August, Iran and Russia announced that the system would be delivered by the end of the year, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov saying at the time that “just technical details” remained to be agreed upon.
Iranian media has repeatedly reported on the ostensibly imminent arrival of the batteries.