MOSCOW - Russia said Wednesday it was delivering military hardware and light weapons to the government of Syria as it expands sales and maintains its footing in some of the world’s deadliest conflicts.

The head of the Rosoboronexport arms exporter said Russian deliveries to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad included air defence systems but not the advanced Iskander missiles sought by Damascus.

“We are continuing to fulfil our obligations on contracts for the delivery of military hardware,” Anatoly Isaikin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.  He also rejected reports that Russia was planning to supply advanced MiG29-M fighters to Damascus while confirming it had a deal outstanding for Yak-130 light attack jets.

Isaikin said Syria currently ranked “13th or 14th in terms of volume” on the list of nations receiving Russian arms supplies.

Russia has been repeatedly condemned by Western and Arab nations for keeping ties to the Syrian government despite violence that UN estimates show has claimed more than 70,000 lives. Its shipment this year of repaired attack helicopters to the regime was disclosed by the media and drew a furious response from former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

But some Moscow officials counter that Russia’s sales are legitimate because Syria’s armed opposition has received both covert and open financial and military support from some Arab world governments. Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter after the United States and has its biggest contracts with India and China.