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The Armenian and Russian national rescue services will set up soon a joint center that will respond to possible natural disasters in Armenia and nearby countries, a government official in Yerevan said on Friday.

Nikolay Grigorian, a senior official at Armenia’s Emergency Situations Ministry, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the Humanitarian Center will use a small airport in the northern town of Stepanavan and a warehouse in Balahovit, a village just north of Yerevan.

He said the warehouse belonging to the ministry will be stocked with food, drinking water, tents, medication and other relief goods that would be shipped to regional countries struck by serious accidents, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Grigorian revealed that the Russian and Armenian governments signed an agreement on the center in December. Joint working groups have since been preparing for its launch, he said. “Right now representatives of Russia are in Armenia [for that purpose,]” added the official.

Grigorian also said that the Russian-Armenian disaster management center will be part of “rapid-reaction rescue forces” of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led defense pact of six ex-Soviet states. But he stressed that the new structure will not have any military mission. Nor will the Stepanavan and Balahovit facilities be used for military purposes, he said.
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