Record $8.35Bln in Arms Sold Last Year

APMedvedev heading talks on military issues at his Gorki residence Tuesday.
Russia set a new post-Soviet record for arms sales last year, at $8.35 billion, President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday.

Despite the 10 percent rise from 2007, Medvedev urged officials to search more aggressively for new potential markets for Russian weapons as he expects that the global financial crisis will depress demand.

"It's obvious that this year won't be easy because of the financial crisis that has engulfed the entire world," Medvedev said at a meeting with officials. "But we need to try to preserve what we achieved last year and possibly even boost the amount of cooperation in some areas."

Russia has come in a close second after the United States in global arms sales in recent years. India and China have been the main customers, although Russia recently has also struck big weapons deals with Venezuela, Algeria and Iran.

China, the top customer for Russian weapons industries for most of the post-Soviet period, has sharply reduced purchases of Russian arms as it moved to develop its own weapons.

"We must treat markets more attentively, look in different directions, diversify our supplies, reach markets where we haven't been present," Medvedev said.

He also appeared to refer to recent highly publicized blunders in Russia's arms trade, saying weapons sold abroad must be "of immaculate quality" and that contracts must be strictly observed.

Last year, Algeria returned the MiG-29 fighter jets it bought from Russia, complaining of their poor quality.

Earlier, Russia also failed to fulfill China's order for 38 Il-76 transport planes and Il-78 tankers, resulting in the suspension of the deal.

Meanwhile, Moscow has remained locked in tense talks with India on the cost of refurbishing the Soviet-built aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian navy. The two countries signed a $1.5 billion deal in 2004 for the carrier and a batch of planes, but Russia later sought an additional $2 billion, citing swelling production costs.