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Russia’s Medvedev Begins Armenia Visit


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Yerevan on Thursday on a state visit that is expected to cement the Russian-Armenian military alliance with a new defense agreement.

The two-day visit of the Russian leader being made upon the invitation of his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian and overlapping with an unofficial summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-led military alliance of seven former Soviet states, is due to consummate in the signing of documents prolonging and upgrading Russian military presence in Armenia.

Corresponding amendments to a 1995 treaty regulating the presence of a Russian military base in Armenia will extend Russia’s basing rights by 24 years, to 2044, and upgrade the mission of its troops stationed in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri close to the border with Turkey. According to a relevant “protocol” submitted to Medvedev by the Russian government, besides “performing functions on defending the interests of the Russian Federation,” the Russian military base also “jointly with the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia ensures the security of the Republic of Armenia.” The document also commits Russia to supplying its regional ally with “modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware.”

President Sarkisian and his wife Rita went to Yerevan’s airport Zvartnots to meet the arriving Russian leader and his entourage, including Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, other senior government officials.

After the official greeting ceremony, accompanied by Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, Medvedev visited the Tsitsernakaberd hill in Yerevan to lay a wreath at the memorial to the victims of the 1915 massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, which Yerevan and about two dozen governments in the world regard as the first genocide of the 20th century. He also visited the Memory Park of the Tsitsernakaberd Complex where he planted a fir-tree during his official visit to Armenia in 2008.

On August 20, the presidents of Armenia and Russia are expected to hold a head-to-head meeting, followed by talks with the participation of respective delegations. The two sides are due to sign a number of treaties and agreements aimed at the enhancement and strengthening of the two countries’ strategic cooperation. After the signing ceremony, Sarkisian and Medvedev are expected to hold a joint press conference.

Sarkisian and Medvedev will also travel to Gyumri, where they will participate in a ceremony inaugurating the Hill of Honor, a Russian military cemetery founded in the 19th century as the final resting place for many Russian soldiers killed in Russo-Turkish wars.

After concluding his official visit to Armenia, Medvedev will stay on in the country to attend the unofficial summit of CSTO leaders, which opens on Friday and runs through Sunday.

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