Irem UZUN -TDO- Russia will begin delivering S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to India by the end of 2021, state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted a Russian official as saying on Wednesday. India, the largest purchaser of Russian military hardware, signed a $5bn deal for S-400 missiles in 2018, drawing warnings from the United States that such an acquisition would trigger sanctions as part of a wider program against Russia.

"The S400 deal is being implemented as per the original schedule. First delivery of the systems will start by the end of 2021. We will fulfil our delivery commitments," Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), Vladimir Drozhzhov said. "The defence cooperation between the two countries is very robust. We are committed to boost it further. The training of Indian specialists will begin before the start of delivery," Drozhzhov said. Moscow is expected to deliver all five S-400 missile batteries to New Delhi by 2025, a senior Russian diplomat in India said last month.

The S-400 would give India's military the ability to shoot down aircraft and missiles at unprecedented ranges. Washington has said countries trading with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors would face automatic sanctions under a sweeping legislation called Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). India is hoping that President Donald Trump's administration will give it a waiver on the weapons systems which Delhi sees as a deterrent against China's larger and more superior military. A senior U.S. State Department official said last month that India would not receive a "blanket waiver" on sanctions, which the United States in 2018 imposed on China's military for its purchase of combat fighters and the S-400 missile system from Russia.

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