Russia ‘Sabotages’ Ukraine’s Aircraft Deal With An Ally Using Its Diplomatic & Commercial Clout – Top Official

A top Ukrainian defense industry official has accused Russia of interfering and sabotaging Kyiv’s international defense deals to acquire military hardware to be used in the ongoing war.

Without naming the weapon system or the country, the official said Moscow used its diplomatic and commercial clout with the said nation and ensured it “changed its mind” to supply arms to Ukraine. 

Russian defense commentators and military bloggers, however, believe this country to be Peru and the weapons to have been MiG-29 fighters. While this fact could not be officially verified, an informed guess based on the facts surrounding the case, available knowledge on general Russian ties with South America, and earlier reports from US media validate the aircraft’s identity and the country. 

Vladislav Belbas, the General Director of the Ukrainian Armoured Equipment Company, has made the staggering allegation. He added that this was also not the first instance of Russia “obstructing” Ukraine’s global arms procurement attempts. 

‘Russia Interfered in Jet’s Procurement’

A report on Kommersant that quoted Belbas’s interview with the Ukrainian publication Economic Truth said he called Russia “guilty” of “disrupting the supply of foreign weapons to the Ukrainian army.”

One of the cases of “Russian interference” was regarding an “agreement” for the “purchase of fighter jets” that was “terminated due to pressure from Russian diplomats on local officials.” 

“In one country on the other side of the planet, we found fighter jets and began negotiating a purchase. The seller was ready, and the Ministry of Defense confirmed they were needed. Suddenly, one of the letters about this agreement fell into the hands of the Russians.

“Very soon, a representative of the Russian embassy in this country began walking around with this letter and threatening local officials that Russia would shut down any projects for this country,” he said. 

A Peruvian Air Force MiG-29. Source Wikimedia Commons

The “letter” in question can be assumed to be one of the correspondences between the seller country and Ukrainian diplomatic and defense industry executives. Following this, Belbas added that the unnamed supplier country changed its mind about entering into a deal to sell fighters.

“In the end, the agreement fell through,” he said. This is not the first instance of the “Russian side preventing his company from buying weapons on the world market.” 

Peru & MiG-29

Leading Russian Telegram channel, Milinfolive, said Belabas is “possibly talking about Peru and a Ukrainian attempt to purchase MiG-29 fighters from the South American country.”

Interestingly, earlier reports in US media and statements from Washington’s top defense officials have mentioned Peru among the “Central and South American” nations as potential candidates for sourcing Russian-origin arms for Ukraine – validating Milinfolive’s claims. 

A January 2023 report in the Voice of America said the US was also attempting to get the “Ukrainian military Russian-made equipment” besides “billions of dollars worth of Western-made armored vehicles and air defense systems.”

US military officials overseeing operations and defense relations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean see an opportunity to “persuade” some countries to give up their Russian-made weapons for Kyiv. 

This was because “Russian-made weapon systems currently being used in Central and South America could be used by the Ukrainian military almost immediately…and some countries have significant stockpiles.” 

It quoted US Southern Command chief, General Laura Richardson, from an Atlantic Council online event, saying they were “working with countries that have Russian equipment to either donate it or switch it out for US equipment.”

Then Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, who retired only recently, particularly noted the importance of sending Kyiv familiar Russian equipment, taking into account the time required for training Ukrainian troops Western weapons. 

“That’ll be a very, very heavy lift. The Ukrainians have the personnel, but they have to be trained. And if you look at the weather and terrain, etc., you can see that you have a relatively short window of time to accomplish both those key tasks.

“I think it can be done, but I think that it will be a challenge.” Milley had made the statement after a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

‘Reluctant’ South American Countries

Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina were found as the “best examples” as they used Russian Mi-17 helicopters, Grad Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS), BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), and MT-LB amphibious armored vehicles. 

It is in this context that Peru (along with Uruguay) is separately mentioned as possessing “fighter jets, tanks and air defense systems (which) can meet immediate Ukrainian needs.”

Peru was noted to have “nine serviceable MiG-29s” and another four “Su-25 ground attack aircraft in storage.”  Some analysts, however, “estimated” the number of serviceable aircraft to be “higher.”

Ironically, the report itself noted this endeavor to be difficult since some countries showed “reluctance” towards sending weapons to Ukraine. For instance, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in June 2022, called the notion “immoral.” “None” of the countries had agreed to give up their Russian-made weapons, illustrating the difficult task that faced US officials. 

Peru Cautious Due To Trade Deal With Russia?

Meanwhile, the “project” that the Russian diplomat wielded before Peruvian officials to prevent it from sending its MiG-29 to Ukraine could be the host of infrastructure, trade, and industrial cooperation the two countries planned in late January this year. 

File Image: MiG-29

The fifth session of the Russian–Peruvian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, and Technical Cooperation and Fisheries that took place in Lima on January 25 and 26 saw negotiators touching upon “trade, investment, and industrial partnership; on high-tech cooperation; and cooperation in the agricultural and fishing industries.” 

MoUs are also being planned “in the fields of veterinary and phytosanitary oversight, agreeing on the technical criteria for access to the Russian market for food products.” This also represents a significant economic boost for the poor South American country, where increasing exports will rake in precious exchange.

It would have been inconceivable for Lima to send weapons to a country (Ukraine) that will use them against the very country (Russia) it is looking at as a potential customer.