A report by Russian state news agency Ria Novosti claims that a government owned technologies company may supply military helicopter gunships to Zimbabwe, in exchange for rights to mine platinum deposits in Darwendale.
Darwendale, just outside Harare, is estimated to have the second largest platinum deposits in the world. The area is also rich in palladium, gold, rhodium, nickel and copper.
A source in the Russian presidential administration told the Kommersant Business Daily newspaper that Russia, "is holding negotiations with Zimbabwe on an inter-governmental agreement on stimulating investment and defence."
"Russian Technologies has already secured preliminary support from Zimbabwe's official representatives during its visit to the country in April," another source told the paper. The source further said the Zimbabweans were interested in the supply of Russian arms, in particular military helicopters.
"The issue being discussed is the transfer to Russian Technologies of the rights to develop the (platinum) deposit in exchange for the supply of helicopters," the source said. Another source close to Russian Technologies confirmed the state corporation's interest in the Darwendale project.
It's reported the licence for the development of the Darwendale project belongs to "Ruschrome Mining - a joint company of the government of Zimbabwe and the Russian Center for business cooperation with foreign countries."
Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Martin Rushwaya, fingered by Global Witness as a director in the Chinese/Zim army owned diamond firm Anjin, is serving as the chairman of the Board of Directors of Ruschrome. Andrei Shutov presides over the Russian consortium of investors.
"Ruschrome received the license for the exploration and development of the deposit for 25 years. All preparations were completed in January of this year, and the company received an opportunity to start the development of the deposit. The total volume of investments in the project makes up $300 million," one report said.
The news will infuriate Zimbabweans, eager to see the coalition government get its priorities right. Although the country is rich in mineral deposits the proceeds from such projects are not going to the Treasury and health and education don't get the funding they need and civil servants remain on poor salaries.
Instead the Mugabe regime is effectively running a parallel government to fund the purchase of military hardware and other covert operations aimed at suppressing perceived opposition supporters and allowing the regime to hang on to power.
But there is still a possibility that the weapons for platinum deal may not go through.
Several people in the Russian administration are not too confident about Mugabe and ZANU PF's chances of winning the next election. The view is that Zimbabwe has a strong and popular opposition and even the persistent speculation about Mugabe's health has fuelled concerns about the long term future of the deal.