Russia is to deliver 12 more heavy flamethrowers to Azerbaijan as part of multimillion-dollar arms deals with Baku that have caused outrage in Armenia, its main regional ally.
The Azerbaijani news agency APA revealed on Monday that the Azerbaijani army will receive soon 6 TOS-1A systems manufactured by Uralvagonzavod, a state-run Russian defense company. It said a third and final batch of these weapons designed to support advancing tanks and infantry will be supplied later on.
According to APA, Azerbaijani already took delivery of six such multiple-launch systems last year and put them on display during a June 2014 military parade in Baku.
A TOS-1A system can fire up to 24 incendiary or thermobaric rockets in a single salvo. With a 6-kilometer range, the rockets are designed to destroy enemy personnel, armored vehicles and transport.
News of the supplies of the flamethrowers came just days after a senior Russian defense official said that Azerbaijan is entitled to buying 100 more modern tanks from Russia. The Russians have already sold a similar number of T-90 tanks to Azerbaijan in line with $1 billion defense contracts signed in 2011. They were disclosed in May last year, sparking angry reactions from Armenian politicians, pundits and media commentators.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian on Monday commented cautiously on the tank deliveries, saying that Russia has a sovereign right to export weapons. “I can’t be happy with that but I have no right to stop it,” Ohanian told reporters. He insisted that the Russian arms sales will not change the military balance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Analysts in Yerevan were less sanguine about possible consequences of Russian-Azerbaijani military cooperation. “If that is not compensated with more arms supplies to Armenia it could disrupt the balance,” warned Sergey Minasian, the deputy director of the Caucasus Institute. He said Moscow has until now cemented the Karabakh status quo with large-scale military assistance to Yerevan.
Another analyst, Ruben Mehrabian, said Russia is not only demonstrating that it is not a true Armenian ally but also deliberately preventing a peaceful settlement by arming both parties to the conflict. “It’s time to question Russia’s role as a mediator,” he said.