The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that the soldiers will represent the Russian military base stationed in Armenia.
“The military base actively participates in the ensuring of Armenia’s security and in this sense its unit’s participation in the parade will symbolize the deep foundations of Russian-Armenian defense cooperation,” the ministry spokesman, Davit Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Russian military presence in Armenia is a key element of that cooperation. A Russian-Armenian agreement signed in August 2010, extended that presence by 24 years, until 2044, and upgraded the base’s security mission.
The Russian participation in what will be Armenia’s biggest show of military power in five years has already been criticized by some pro-opposition media and commentators critical of the Armenian government. They claim that it will be an affront to the country’s independence.
Armenia - An Armenian-made drone is driven through Yerevans Republic Square during a military parade rehearsal, 19Sep2011.
Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), dismissed the criticism. “After all, it’s not Turkish troops that will be marching in Yerevan,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “The Russians are not a problem, they are our defenders.”
Vladimir Karapetian, a senior member of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), said the presence of Russian troops in Yerevan’s Republic Square is “raising serious questions.” He argued that neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia did not invite troops from allied nations to similar parades staged by their armed forces.
It was not clear if Karapetian’s remarks reflect the HAK’s official position on the matter.
The HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, has endorsed the 2010 Russian-Armenian defense pact despite the fact that it was criticized by some opposition figures and media loyal to him.
In a June interview with the “Moskovskie Novosti” daily, Ter-Petrosian dismissed critics’ arguments that Russia pays no rent for the base. He said that the Russian troops serve as a key guarantee of Armenia’s national security by precluding Turkey’s military intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.