Russian President Vladimir Putin says Iran's willingness to try to reach a settlement over its nuclear program was behind his decision to clear the way for the possible sale of an S-300 air defense system to Tehran.
Putin delivering S-300 air defense system to Iran
cartoon by Farsheed Rajabali, Ghanoon daily
Putin spoke Thursday in an annual live question-and-answer session on Russian television, taking questions from members of the Russian public.
Moscow signed a contract worth $800 million back in 2007 to supply Tehran with five S-300 batteries. But Russia froze the contract three years later after the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran.
On Monday, hours after Moscow announced the decision to lift the ban, the U.S. Obama administration expressed concern over the development.
The U.S. State Department said transfer of S-300 missiles to Iran would not violate existing U.N. Security Council sanctions, but the U.S. believes "this is not the time" for the sale, given the unrest in the region.
Earlier in his question session Thursday, Putin said Russia's economic performance has remained strong despite a slump in oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow's involvement with Ukraine.
He said despite last year's devaluation of the ruble, he expects the economy to fully rebound within two years.
The United States and its allies slapped sanctions on Russia last year following its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday at a Moscow security conference that the United States and its Western allies have "crossed all possible lines" in what he said was their drive to bring Ukraine under Western influence.
He said Western influence on Kyiv triggered Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula that led to an armed rebellion in Ukraine's east. Russia has repeatedly denied Western assertions that it backs the pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine and supplies them with equipment.
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