The war in Iraq (news - web sites), which has seen stiff Iraqi resistance against US and British troops, has opened up market opportunities for Russian weapons used by Baghdad's forces, military experts said.
"We got a great advertising gift for our weapons in Iraq," Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax-AVN news agency on Friday.
The conflict will "generate a surge in interest in anti-aircraft defences and radio-electronic equipment," predicted Alexander Nozdrachev, head of the state-run Russian Agency for Conventional Weapons, quoted by Interfax-AVN.
Russian weapons sales last year totalled 4.5 billion dollars (4.1 billion euros), concentrated mainly on just two countries, China and India, although Russia has expanded sales to other regions.
"The war is useful for Russia. The Iraqi army is creating publicity for Russian weapons," respected business daily Vedomosti commented recently.
"Old launch-grenades, anti-tank missiles and mines, as well as primitive anti-aircraft equipment" from Soviet times "are inflicting losses on the coalition forces," Vedomosti said.
US M1 Abrams battle tanks, the most advanced tank in the world, have been damaged by hand-held rocket-propelled grenades, the RPG-7s, and Malyutka anti-tank missiles, which were designed in the 1960s, defence analyst Konstantin Makienko said.
"The scandal around the Kornet anti-tank missiles could boost interest in these arms," added Makienko, from the Centre for Strategy and Technologies Analysis.
The United States has accused Russian firms of selling Iraq anti-tank missiles and satellite jamming devices as well as night-vision goggles, in violation of the UN embargo. Moscow has firmly denied the allegations.
One of the firms concerned hit back at Washington, accusing the United States of "trying to find a scapegoat because their bombs are not falling as accurately as they want."
"The US weapons have been the cause of many mistakes in Iraq," hitting their own forces or civilians, Makienko pointed out.
With significant ground operations in the Iraq war, the "demand for Russian tanks and anti-tank missiles will rise," predicted Ivan Safranchuk from the Centre for Defence Information.
This will be particularly the case in other members of Washington's "axis of evil," Iran and North Korea (news - web sites), who fear the United States will target them after Iraq, Marat Kenzhetayev from the Russian Centre for Disarmament Problems told Vedomosti.
Most in demand will be TOR-M1 Short-range Air Defence Missile Systems (SA-15 under NATO (news - web sites) classification) and S-300 surface-to-air missiles (SA-10 Grumble), from Syria, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, according to Makienko.
According to some analysts, there has already been a surge in interest for Russian weapons at the IDEX-2003 arms exhibition, the biggest in the Middle East, which took place on the eve of the war in Abu Dhabi from March 16 to 20.