Yemen has signed a deal to buy $1 billion worth of weapons from Russia, including fighter planes, helicopters and tanks, Yemeni state media reported.
Agreements signed during a visit to Moscow by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh included the purchase of MiG-29 planes, helicopters, T-80 and T-72 tanks, and armored vehicles, the state news agency Saba quoted unnamed sources as saying.
“The most important result of President Saleh’s successful visit to Moscow is the signing of a Russian military equipment deal, including land, sea and air military equipment in order to enhance the defence capability of Yemen in the fight against terrorism and piracy,” the agency said late on Thursday.
Russian warships have been patrolling the Gulf of Aden since the end of last year as part of international efforts to protect the shipping waterway off Somalia’s coast from attacks by pirates.
Russian military experts and senior officials have also speculated that Yemen could be one of several regional states to host Russian bases in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.
“We would like to discuss how to continue to offer Russian warships every privilege they need to assist fighting piracy in our region,” Saleh told his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev during talks in the Kremlin. “Fighting against piracy is of huge importance for us.”
The Soviet Union supplied large quantities of weapons to socialist South Yemen in the 1970s and 1980s in return for the right to use its port facilities by the Soviet navy.
The Yemeni agency said Saleh’s talks in Moscow also covered the possibility of Russian companies setting up a power plant in the Arab country and exploring for oil, gas and metals.
Analysts say the presence of Russian warships in the region is part of the Kremlin’s attempts to use its military power to play a more assertive role in world politics.