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By Emil Danielyan
Russia plans to modernize the weaponry and other equipment of its troops stationed in Armenia, a top Russian military official said on Wednesday at the start of a three-day visit to his country’s closest regional ally.

General Vladimir Mikhaylov, commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, said Moscow is already repairing technical facilities as part of a “gradual re-equipment” of its military base headquartered in the Armenian city of Gyumri. The Russian military intends to supply it with new equipment, he told reporters in Yerevan, refusing to go into details.

Mikhaylov’s comments will likely be welcomed by official Yerevan which regards the Russian military presence as a key element of Armenia’s national security doctrine. As recently as in late December, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian expressed hope that the Russian base will be modernized this year with “the most modern weapons.” Sarkisian said he will be “twice as happy” if some of those weapons are transferred to the Armenian army.

The Gyumri base has already been boosted with some of the hardware belonging to Russian troops that are being pulled out of neighboring Georgia. The transfer was completed late last year amid protests from Azerbaijan.

Mikhaylov arrived in Yerevan to preside over an annual meeting of the air defense chiefs of Russia, Armenia and four other ex-Soviet states making up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The meeting will be followed by the inauguration of the newly upgraded Russian-Armenian system of air defense which was launched almost eight years ago.

Mikhaylov’s deputy, Lieutenant-General Aytech Bizhev, revealed recently that Russia helped to modernize Armenia’s anti-aircraft capabilities last year. He said Armenian specialists will now be able to operate the Russian S-300 missile systems that were deployed in Armenia in the late 1990s.

(Photolur photo: S-300 missiles deployed near Gyumri.)
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