A senior representative of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Thursday condemned as “rude and unacceptable” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s angry reaction to Armenian protests against Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan.
The protests followed the outbreak of heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh early on April 2. Many in Armenia believe that an Azerbaijani military offensive there was made possible by large quantities of Russian weapons which Baku has purchased in recent years.
President Serzh Sarkisian complained to Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev about the use of those weapons against Armenian soldiers and civilians when they met in Yerevan last week. Medvedev defended the Russian-Azerbaijani arms deals afterwards, saying that they sustain “the military balance” in the conflict zone.
Rogozin, who is thought to have personally overseen the arms sales in his capacity as co-chairman of a Russian-Azerbaijani intergovernmental commission, went farther on Tuesday, dismissing the Armenian outcry as “demagogy.” “Warfare requires composure, not smeared snot,” he told the Russian radio station “Ekho Moskvy.”
Hermine Naghdalian, a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament and senior HHK member, hit back at Rogozin after a late-night meeting of the ruling party’s governing body chaired by Sarkisian. She said the Russian vice-premier’s comments were “quite rude and unacceptable.”
Naghdalian suggested that Rogozin might have a personal interest in defense contracts with Baku estimated at over $4 billion. “Individuals may say different things based on their mindsets, interests and personal positions, but interstate processes are guided by different principles,” she told reporters.
Rogozin also said that while Armenia is allied with Russia, Moscow regards Azerbaijan as a “strategic partner.” He claimed that Western arms manufactures would quickly replace Russia should the latter stop selling weapons to Azerbaijan.
The United States and other major Western powers have long been maintaining an arms embargo against both parties to the Karabakh conflict.