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Russia’s arms sales in 2020 ‘successful’ despite pandemic

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A Russian flag flies atop the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Russia’s arms sales last year were not affected by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, a senior official said Friday, making it one of the country’s only industries to come out unscathed.

“Our order book remained at a level of $50-55 billion,” said Dmitry Shugayev, who heads the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation.

“We came out with a highly successful year,” he said on the Rossiya 24 news channel, adding that 2020 “was special” because of the pandemic.

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Russia did however suffer losses in its so-called “secret” exports of arms and military equipment, falling 15.6 percent on the previous year, the RBK business daily reported last month citing customs data.

In 2019 and 2018, Russia received orders for its weapons worth $51.1 billion and $55 billion respectively, according to chief executive of arms giant Rostec, Sergei Chemezov.

The country in 2020 suffered losses in other key export industries, notably seeing a 12 percent drop in energy giant Gazprom’s exports to Europe with prices and demand collapsing due to the pandemic.

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Russia did not reimpose a national lockdown when a second wave of infections surged late last year, which helped keep its economy’s contraction to just 3.1 percent — a relatively good result compared with many European countries.

Arms sales are a key part of Moscow’s push to increase its geopolitical clout from the Middle East to Africa.

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