Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian asked his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday to accelerate the planned delivery of $200 million worth of Russian weapons to Armenia during their talks held in Yerevan following a sharp escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The move came amid mounting anger in Armenia over Azerbaijan’s use of Russian-manufactured offensive weapons during recent days’ heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, which left at least 36 Armenian soldiers dead. Lawmakers representing President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) launched unprecedented scathing attacks on Moscow on Thursday.
Yerevan is due to purchase, at substantially discounted prices, Russian multiple-launch rocket systems, heavy flamethrowers, advanced anti-tank missiles and other weapons with a $200 million loan allocated by the Russian government last summer.
Abrahamian thanked Moscow for the loan agreement when he met Medvedev. “However, there is a certain slowdown in the process of the implementation of the agreement, and I am therefore asking you to issue instructions [Russia’s state arm exporter] Rosoboronexport on concluding the contract,” Medvedev’s press office quoted him as saying.
In a thinly veiled rebuke to Moscow, Abrahamian also noted that Azerbaijan used Russian-made T-90 tanks, TOS-1A flamethrowers and devastating Smerch rocket systems during the fighting.
Baku bought these and other weapons as part of defense contracts with Moscow worth at least $4 billion. They were reportedly signed in 2009-2011, at a time when Medvedev served as Russia’s president.
Many in Armenia have deplored the Russian arms supplies to Baku, saying that they ran counter to the Russian-Armenian military alliance. The criticism sharply intensified following the Azerbaijani offensive launched along the Karabakh “line of contact” on Saturday.
“We have suffered many casualties … and Russia is also to blame for that,” said Vazgen Karakhanian, a parliament deputy from the ruling HHK. “We can’t keep this truth under wraps.”
Another pro-government Armenian parliamentarian, Samvel Nikoyan, stressed that unlike Russia, the two other mediating powers -- the United States and France -- have not sold weapons to Azerbaijan. “They [the Russians] too understand now that what they did was inadmissible,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“They too see that Armenian soldiers and civilians were killed by weapons supplied by them,” said Nikoyan. “And it would be kind of insincere to say after all this that we are friends, brothers, allies and so on.”
The Karabakh escalation was on the agenda of Abrahamian’s talks with Medvedev. The Russian premier expressed hope after the talks that the conflicting parties will stick to the ceasefire brokered by Moscow on Tuesday and restart peace talks.
Medvedev, who hosted nearly a dozen Armenian-Azerbaijani summits during his 2008-2012 presidency, was due to meet with President Sarkisian later in the evening.