By Matthew Gayle.
According to UPI, Iraqi officials are saying that the military has started taking delivery of Russian arms as part of a landmark $4.3 billion contract signed in October 2012.
The officials have not specified which systems have arrived in Iraq or when, but UPI's sources say it's understood they include 10 fully armed Mil Mi-28NE Night Hunter attack helicopters, platforms that could be a major boost to the counterterrorism efforts by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Russia's RIA Novosti news agency quoted Maliki's close aide Ali Musawi as saying "implementation of one of the contract's stages has begun" and systems involved were "mainly for anti-terrorist operations."
The 2012 contract marked Russia's return to a major Middle Eastern market it had dominated during the Soviet era. During Saddam Hussein's rule, that ended in April 2003, Moscow was Iraq's main arms supplier.
According to the 2012 contract, Iraq is scheduled to receive 30 of the all-weather Night Hunter helicopter gunships and 50 Pantsyr S-1 gun-missile short-range air-defense systems.