MOSCOW — Syria has signed a $550 million (425 million-euro) contract to purchase 36 Yak-130 advanced training fighter planes from Russia, the Kommersant business daily reported Jan. 23.
The deal was signed in December with Russia's Rosoboronexport state defense corporation, Kommersant cited a source close to the agency as saying, adding that production of the jets would begin once the advance payment was made.
The two-seater entered serial production in 2009, with the defense ministry placing an order for 55 of the combat trainers from the Irkut defense corporation, according to Russian press.
The jets destined for Syria will be built separately from the ones commissioned by the Russian air force, Kommersant said.
"As soon as Syria transfers the advance to Russia, the factory will immediately assume the assembly of the second set for Syria," the unnamed source told the paper.
A Rosoboronexport spokesman declined to comment.
The U.S. has expressed repeated concerns over Russia's military trade ties with Syria, which have continued despite the violent crackdown on protests pursued by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia, which, along with China recently blocked U.N. Security Council action against Assad, has defended the ties as legal under international law.
"We are only trading items with Syria that are not banned by international law," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week.