Ecuador Confirms US Weapons Swap Is Off After Russian Protest

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(Bloomberg) -- Ecuador canceled plans to swap decades-old Russian weapons with the US after learning they would be delivered to Ukraine, President Daniel Noboa said in an interview with CNN.

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While he was aware the US wasn’t going to be the final destination for the “scrap” military equipment, “to our own surprise the United States publicly communicated that it’s going to be taken to an armed conflict in Ukraine in which we don’t want to be a party,” the 36-year-old leader told the broadcaster Thursday night.

Ecuador said in January it had agreed to receive $200 million in US weapons in exchange for Russian arms dating from the 1990s, which Washington intended to ship to Ukraine. Russia called the plan “reckless” and briefly imposed a partial ban on banana imports from Ecuador.

“Russia is our number three trading partner and in this particular case they’d be right because we’d be triangulating arms” and risking to violate international treaties, Noboa said, wearing a black leather air force bomber jacket.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld gave congressional testimony ruling out sending weapons to a war zone. Moscow’s ambassador in Quito, Vladimir Sprinchan, told a local news outlet Russia is willing to repair the grounded helicopters Ecuador needs for the internal war on narco gangs that Noboa launched at the start of the year.

Last Friday, Russia lifted a ban on five Ecuadorian banana exporters imposed after it complained about the presence of a small fly in shipments going back to last year. A day later, Sprinchan told a state-run news agency that Ecuador had agreed to cancel the US weapons swap.

While Ecuador’s presidency confirmed that Sprinchan and Noboa — the heir to a banana fortune — had met, it declined to comment on the status of the weapons exchange at the time. The president’s CNN interview marks the first official confirmation of his decision to pull the plug on the US deal.

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