Ecuador is weighing up sending its old Russian military equipment to the United States so that it can be transferred to Ukraine, a US official said in Quito Thursday.
"I understand that the Ecuadoran government is still studying the issue," US Assistant Secretary of State for South America Kevin Sullivan said on local TV.
"This is an agreement aimed at transferring equipment to the Ukrainian government, which is fighting against the Russian invasion of its territory," he added.
President Daniel Noboa announced last month that Quito had agreed to exchange Russian military equipment that had become "scrap metal" for new US weapons worth around $200 million.
Ecuador will send six Russian military helicopters, long-range rocket launchers and air defense systems to the United States. Local media reports the equipment dates back to the 1990s.
In exchange, Ecuador will receive modern weapons to confront powerful drug trafficking gangs that have the country in a chokehold.
"We assume that such a reckless decision was taken by the Ecuadoran side under strong pressure from external interested parties," Russian spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week.
She said Quito was contractually obliged "not to transfer (this equipment) to a third party" without Russia's agreement.
"If it was 'scrap metal', it is unlikely that Washington would have offered modern vehicles of considerable cost in exchange," she added.
In Quito, Russian Ambassador Vladimir Sprinchan has had several "frank" meetings with the government in recent days, according to the embassy's account on X, formerly Twitter.
Russia, one of the main consumers of Ecuadoran bananas, announced last week that it was banning the purchase of the fruit from five exporters from Monday. The same measure will be applied to Ecuadoran flowers.
Moscow said it took the measure because the Ecuadoran banana is affected by the humpback fly, but the local plant health control agency says the insect is neither a serious agricultural pest nor a health risk.
Noboa, in an interview with the Ecuavisa TV channel, said "we are not going to cut ties with Russia" and insisted that shipping out "scrap" military hardware was not against international law.
"I think the stance they (Russia) are taking is not adequate. We are also at war here."
Once considered a bastion of peace in Latin America, Ecuador has been plunged into crisis by the rapid spread of transnational cartels that use its ports to ship drugs to the United States and Europe.
In January, Noboa declared a state of emergency after a prominent drug lord escaped from prison, sparking a spasm of violence as gangs took hostage scores of prison officials and carried out attacks that left about 20 people dead.
The army sent troops and tanks to regain control of detention centers which had become the criminal headquarters of the main gangs, who Noboa calls "terrorists."