Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian on Tuesday declined to be drawn on Russia’s military intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which a senior Russian military official has described as a real possibility.
Ohanian reacted cautiously to Colonel Andrey Ruzinksy’s recent remark that the Russian military base in Armenia, of which he is the commander, could fight on the Armenian side if Azerbaijan tries to reconquer Karabakh.
“We have important agreements with Russia on our security, and they will be acting within that framework,” the minister told journalists.
One of those agreements signed in 2010 extended Russia’s military presence in Armenia until 2044 and upgraded the security mission of Russian troops stationed there. Ohanian said at the time that they could openly back Armenia in the event of a renewed Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Russian officials did not publicly confirm such a possibility until Ruzinsky’s October 10 interview with the “Krasnaya Zvezda” newspaper published by the Defense Ministry in Moscow.
Ruzinksy’s statement has been strongly criticized by Azerbaijani officials and pundits. Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov reportedly demanded an explanation from Igor Popov, Russia’s chief Karabakh negotiator, when they met in Baku on Monday. Popov suggested vaguely that the Azerbaijani anger might be the result of a “misunderstanding.”