By Emil Danielyan and Anush Martirosian
The Armenian police have denied a Turkish newspaper report that they are seeking to buy Turkish-made water cannons and other crowd control equipment.
The daily “Hurriyet” claimed on Wednesday that Nurol Machinery and Industry, a Turkish defense company, is negotiating with Armenian authorities over possible supplies of its vehicle-mounted water cannons to Armenia.
“Armenia contacted us. Talks have been going on for some time now," the official, Tanju Torun, was quoted as saying. He did not say how many vehicles Yerevan would allegedly like to buy, according to “Hurriyet.”
Colonel Sayat Shirinian, the chief spokesman for the Armenian police, categorically denied the report. “I can assure you that the Armenian police have no need to purchase new water cannons,” Shirinian told the Arminfo news agency later on Tuesday.
Still, Armenian opposition politicians and media found the Turkish claims credible. “The authorities condition their survival with Turkish water-cannons,” David Shahnazarian, a leading member of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), charged on Thursday. “Maybe they should also bring in descendants of Janissaries,” he added tartly. “They are clearly pinning their hopes on that.”
Water cannons have always been in the Armenian police arsenal of riot equipment. However, the police barely used them during the worst street violence in the country’s history that occurred in the aftermath of the February 2008 presidential election. Only one such vehicle was spotted at the scene of the deadly March 1 clashes in Yerevan between security forces and opposition protesters. Eyewitnesses say it broke down moments after being ordered into action.