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Friday, March 16, 2018

Afghanistan Wants Donated Russian Helicopters

Afghanistan is interested in acquiring Russian-made helicopters but, given its financial outlook, would like donated helicopters.

In an interview with Sputnik International, the Afghan Ambassador to Russia, Abdul Qayyum Kochai, stated, "There was a time when we purchased Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters from Russia. Some of these helicopters are operational, some others require major repair works and [or] prolongation of service life."

He noted that Afghanistan "is interested in purchasing the above-mentioned modifications of helicopters as they showed themselves to the best advantage in Afghan conditions.

"At the same time, I should remind that the United States will continue providing Black Hawk-type helicopters to the Armed Forces on a free of charge basis," he continued.

Afghanistan would be interested in similar arrangements with Russia, according to Ambassador Kochai. He stated, "I believe that the Russian side could do the same by providing to the Afghan side Mi-35-type helicopters on a non-reimbursable basis, which are necessary for the Afghan army to conduct counterterrorism operations."

Sputnik International did not identify whether Russian officials have commented on the possibility of supplying helicopters to Afghanistan free of charge.

Russia has been hoping to extend its presence in the Afghan helicopter market, amid a push by the U.S. to overhaul the Afghan Air Force. Part of that overhaul includes replacing the military's Mi-17s with UH-60 Black Hawks, which have begun arriving to Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, in an interview with Rossiya 24, Vladimir Kozhin, the Russian presidential aide for military-technical cooperation, said, "I think we will find a way to ensure that our helicopters are used in Afghanistan to protect the country’s legitimate government."

Kozhin criticized the rearming of the Afghan military with American helicopters, stating, "All the methods and ways of anti-diplomatic pressure were employed to force Afghanistan into making this decision" on replacing the Russian helicopters with American ones.

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