Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz – By Nasik Swami in Suva
Negotiations are under way for the second consignment of arms and ammunition to the Fijian military from Russia.
This comes 29 days after the first consignment arrived in the country on board Russian container ship St Confidence.
Defence Minister Timoci Natuva also confirmed that a 10-member training team from the Russian Armed Forces was in the country providing training to help with the transfer of the large consignment of Russian weapons for the Fijian military and to train local instructors on its use.
“There are negotiations because we have already signed a MOU in 2013. We are negotiating because these things [arms and ammunition] are expensive and the government cannot afford them,” Natuva said.
He said the team from Russian Armed Forces would train Fijian military instructors on how to use the weapons.
“There are some new weapons and then it’s going to take about a week for all the trainers to be trained before the handover from Russian Armed Forces to the Fiji armed forces,” Natuva said.
He added that the training was important because Russians had different types of weapons — such as the AK-47 — compared with the Korean K2 rifle and the US-made M16 normally used by Fijian soldiers.
The minister said the guns had different capabilities and the Fijian military instructors would be taught how to strip, clean and use the weapons effectively, their effective range, range testing and firepower.
Natuva said the weapons were a spin-off for Fiji’s peacekeeping mission abroad.
“The weapons will be deployed to peacekeeping missions in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. This is like the spin-off for our peacekeeping,” he said.
Natuva said Fiji’s participation in big peacekeeping missions was being recognised by bigger countries, thus the assistance.
“So when these people recognised the capabilities that we have and the time that we have used for services in the peacekeeping, they said OK, we ask for arms and ammunition, they can provide us with a grant,” he said.