President Serzh Sarkisian heaped praise on Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenia-backed armed forces and pledged to continue strengthening them with “the most modern weapons” late on Tuesday as he watched them end what military authorities described as large-scale exercises.
Video footage and photographs released by official sources in Yerevan and Stepanakert showed hundreds of troops backed by dozens of tanks and armored vehicles practicing military operations at a shooting ground just east of Karabakh. The training was also monitored by the Armenian army top brass.
A statement issued by Karabakh’s Defense Army described it as the final and most important session of one-week “tactical” exercises held by its forces. It said they simulated “defensive and counteroffensive battles” with live gunfire and tested “combat harmony” among various army units.
The statement added that the war games were “unprecedented in terms of much larger numbers of troops and equipment involved.”
Sarkisian addressed the participating troops as the drills drew to a close. “Dear soldiers, as I look at you, Armenian army fighters, my heart and soul are filled with joy,” he said. “Seeing your expertise and the growth in your combat level, I think of only one thing: that the Armenian army and the Defense Army in particular must never, in no case lack any material resource.
“Just like yesterday and today, you will have the most modern military weapons tomorrow as well because we have no other option. We live in a region where we ourselves must ensure our security.”
“My generation performed its duty when there was a need for that,” Sarkisian continued, referring to the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan during which he commanded Karabakh Armenian forces. “I am confident that you will do that better than we did. I am confident because I can see that your commanders are more competent than we were. I can see that you are much better prepared than our soldiers were.”
“You have done your job brilliantly today,” he said. “I see a considerable improvement, which is very important, and this improvement must be continuous.”
Accompanied by Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, the Karabakh-born president inspected Armenian frontline positions around Karabakh and met with the disputed territory’s top military commanders on Monday.
According to the Karabakh army statement, the tactical drills began on October 15, two days after Armenia’s and Karabakh’s armed forces completed two-week “strategic” exercises involving scores of reservists called up for that purpose.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan on Wednesday again condemned Sarkisian’s latest trip to Karabakh. “By visiting an occupied territory of Azerbaijan, the president of Armenia has trampled international law underfoot,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev was quoted by Azerbaijani media as saying.
Abdullayev accused Sarkisian and other Armenian leaders of having committed “crimes against humanity” during the Karabakh war. He also denounced Armenian threats to launch missile strikes on Azerbaijani oil facilities in case of renewed fighting.
“By threatening Azerbaijan, Armenia threatens the region’s future and Europe’s energy security,” the official said, according to the APA news agency.