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Pentagon Says No to More Disputed Russian Copter Deals

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The Pentagon won’t buy more Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-run arms trader, after completing a $572 million contract signed in June, a Defense Department spokeswoman said yesterday.

“The department has re-evaluated requirements in consultation with Congress,” Maureen Schumann, the spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We currently do not have plans to purchase additional Mi-17s from Rosoboronexport” following the acquisition of 86 bought for the Afghanistan military.

Pentagon officials have said Rosoboronexport was the only source for the Russian-made aircraft that Afghanistan’s military has flown since the 1980s. U.S. lawmakers raised objections about the contract because the trader has supplied arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“I applaud the Defense Department’s decision to finally cancel its plan to buy additional helicopters,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said yesterday in a statement. “Doing business with the supplier of these helicopters has been a morally bankrupt policy, and as a nation, we should no longer be subsidizing Assad’s war crimes.”

The decision means that the Defense Department won’t continue to seek $345 million that it had requested to buy 15 more of the helicopters, Schumann said. The Senate defense appropriations panel rejected the request for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The $572 million contract signed in June will provide Afghanistan with 30 Mi-17s as well as spare parts and service.

A dozen senators in August called on the Pentagon to “fully sever its business relationship” with Rosoboronexport, including canceling the June contract.

Rosoboronexport, based in Moscow, accounted for 85 percent of Russia’s arms exports as of 2010, according to GlobalSecurity.org, a research group based in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s the sole Russian company controlling exports of the Mi-17, according to the Pentagon.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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