At least five more Russian fighter jets and one military transport helicopter have arrived, ahead of schedule, at an airbase in Armenia after undergoing what the Russian military described as “capital repairs.”
Russia’s Southern Military District saidon January 5 that it will deploythe “new batch” of MiG-29 jets and a Mi-M8MT helicopter at Yerevan’s Erebuni airbase in the second half of this year. It announced on Saturday, however, that they have already been delivered to Erebuni.
A spokesman for the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri, Andrey Dobrosmyslov, insisted on Monday the earlier-than-planned delivery was not connected with Russia’s mounting tensions with Turkey over the conflict in Syria.
The Russian troops in Armenia were put on combat alert earlier this month as part of their involvement in large-scale war games across southwestern Russia ordered by President Vladimir Putin. Some pro-government Russian pundits said the drills were part of Moscow’s efforts to discourage Turkey from direct military intervention in Syria.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Dobrosmyslov said that all Russian warplanes stationed in Armenia undergo repairs and maintenance in Russia on a regular basis. The latest deployment at Erebuni was therefore not extraordinary, he said.
The weekend statement by the Southern Military District said the latest arrivals included four MiG-29 fighter jets and an unspecified number of MiG-29S aircraft, their modernized version. It indicated that nine other MiG-29s were already on combat duty at Erebuni.
Dobrosmyslov would not say whether more Russian warplanes will be deployed in Armenia in the coming months. The Russian base in Armenia had 18 MiG-29s until recently, according to some media reports.
Russia reinforced the base in December with 13 combat helicopters deployed at Erebuni in line with a Russian-Armenian agreement reached in 2013.
Later in December, Moscow and Yerevan signed a new accord that upgraded their joint air-defense system protecting Armenia’s airspace.