The Russian military said on Friday that it is pressing ahead with plans to beef up its troops stationed in Armenia with roughly two dozen combat helicopters.
A statement by Russia’s Southern Military District said that the squadron of Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopter gunships will be deployed there this year. It said they will have “a wide range of tasks in aviation support for troops and transportation of personnel of the Russian military base through the Republic of Armenia.”
The statement gave no precise dates for the deployment, saying only that the Russian Air Force has already selected pilots and technical personnel for the aviation unit. It said the pilots are currently engaged in flight training at a military airfield in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.
The helicopters are to be deployed at the Erebuni military airport just south of Yerevan in line with an agreement reached by Russian and Armenian officials in April 2013. The Armenian government gave the formal green light to the deployment in November. It allocated two plots of land to the Russian military base in Armenia which will be used by the helicopter squadron. They are located in and around the Erebuni facility that currently hosts both Armenian and Russian warplanes.
The helicopters will mark a further widening of Russian military presence in the South Caucasus state. The Russian base headquartered in Gyumri has already been bolstered with heavy weaponry, reportedly including ballistic missiles, in recent years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin underlined the base’s significance for Moscow when he started an official visit to Armenia from Gyumri in December. “We are planning to reinforce our positions in Transcaucasus,” Putin declared there.