Around 20 Russian soldiers, most likely weapons experts, landed in Fiji on Tuesday via a Korean Airlines flight.
Islands Business reports that the Russians are there to train local troops after the Pacific islands nation bought a number of unspecified arms and military equipment, believed to be worth in excess of $AU30 million, delivered last month in more than 20 containers.
It’s believed to be Fiji’s first major weapons upgrade since Korean rifles and machine guns were bought after the 1987 military coup. AK47 assault rifles and the Pecheneg light machine guns are believed to be among this shipment.
The Russia foreign ministry has stated the small arms, requested by Fiji, are for a Fijian United Nations peacekeeping force deployed to the Golan Heights.
While the supply of Russian military hardware to Fiji has raised eyebrows, observers believe that as the government, led by former military coup leader Frank Bainimarama, continues to eschew Australia and other Western nations, it was keen to reduce its reliance on China and decided to deal with Russia instead.
Fiji’s Labour opposition claimed the Russian shipment was illegal because it was not approved by parliament.
The Fiji Military Forces have around 3500 active soldiers and 6,000 reservists.