Russian helicopter iraq
Four Russian military MI-35 helicopters have been delivered to Iraq (Reuters)

Russia delivered four helicopter gunships to the Iraqi government days after PM Nuri al-Maliki's demand for more military aid to the US to fight al-Qaida was met with cold reception in Washington.

The four Russian-made Mi-35 aircrafts were the first to be received by Baghdad as part of a $4.3bn (£2.6bn) deal with the Kremlin.

Under the agreement about 40 more military aircrafts, including Mi-35 and Mi-28NE 'Night Hunter' attack helicopters, are expected to be shipped to Iraq by the end of the year, Abbas al-Bayati, an MP with al-Maliki's ruling State of Law Coalition told Ria Novosti.

Dozens of Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft surface-to-air missiles are also to be delivered.

The deal was signed in October 2012 but its implementation was later cancelled by the Iraqi government over corruption concerns.

A Russian military expert suggested Iraq backtracked under pressure from Washington.

The agreement was revived after a few months. The first shipment comes as Iraq faces the worst level of ethnic violence in years.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in terrorist attacks during the past few months.

A cluster of Sunni militant groups, including al-Qaida, have increased attacks against al-Maliki's Shiite-led government, fuelling an outbreak of sectarian violence that threatens to push the country into civil war, as it did in 2006 and 2007.

Last week al-Maliki made and official trip to Washington to demand more support for fighting terrorists and in particular al-Qaida's local franchise, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levante (Isis).

The jihadist group has killed more people in Iraq in the last few months than at any time since 2008 and has eventually extended its reach to Syria, where it has taken over control of large areas exploiting the ongoing civil war.

In Washington al-Maliki reportedly asked President Barack Obama, who oversaw American troops' withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, to supply weaponry including Apache and Predator drones to fight ISIS.

His request was opposed by a group of influential senators who warned Obama that the rise in violence in Iraq was partially due to al-Maliki's mismanagement.

Six high ranked Democrats and Republican senators claimed sectarian violence was rife also because of Maliki's failure to give Iraq's Sunnis, Kurds and other minorities a greater role in the country's administration.

"This failure of governance is driving many Sunni Iraqis into the arms of al-Qaida in Iraq and fuelling the rise of violence," a letter signed by both high ranked Democrats and Republican senators read.

After the meeting Obama and al- Maliki stressed the need to foster cooperation to fight al-Qaida but no new offer of military aid was unveiled.

Russia was the leading military contractor in the Middle East during soviet times and was Iraq's main supplier During Saddam Hussein's rule.