Russia is going to supply Armenia with the same types of weapons that it has delivered to Azerbaijan, a report in the Russian Izvestiya daily said on Tuesday.
The pro-Kremlin periodical said the supply of arms and military equipment to Armenia within the framework of a $200 million loan has already started.
Official Moscow and Yerevan do not yet give details of the dates and types of the armaments being reportedly shipped to Armenia.
The Armenian government moved to speed up the implementation of the loan agreement signed last summer after the April clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh where Azerbaijan used some of the deadliest weapons that it purchased from Russia in recent years.
Overall, Russian supplies of weapons to Azerbaijan since 2010 have totaled $4 billion. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced more military contracts to be signed with Baku in the coming months during the April 8 visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Azerbaijani capital.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian following their talks in Moscow on August 10, Putin dismissed a widely held belief in Armenia that Russia has only increased the risk of another Karabakh war with its large-scale arms sales to Baku. He implied that oil-rich Azerbaijan would have been able to purchase offensive weapons from other nations had Russia refused to sign defense contracts with it.
Putin also argued that Russia has long been providing substantial military aid to Armenia, its main regional ally. Moscow “always fulfills its obligations” to Yerevan relating to defense, he stressed.
An Izvestiya writer suggests that apart from the supply of military equipment, Russia is also going to train Armenian military specialists who will later operate the equipment. This information was confirmed to the Russian paper by the press secretary of the Armenian Ministry of Defense, Artsrun Hovannisian.
Experts believe that the matter primarily concerns heavy systems that will substantially increase the capabilities of the Armenian armed forces. At the same time, according to an Izvestiya source “privy to the situation”, while arms deliveries to Armenia have already begun, the complete list of weapons and military equipment to be purchased by the Armenian side is yet to be finalized between Yerevan and Moscow.
Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Hovannisian has refused to name exactly which systems are going to be supplied to Armenia and in what time frame, but the Russian newspaper suggests that Armenia has intended to buy Smerch multiple rocket launchers and related ammunition, Igla-S portable anti-aircraft missile systems, Avtobaza-M ground-based electronic intelligence complexes, TOS-1A heavy flamethrower systems with auxiliary vehicles, 9M113M guided missiles, RPG-26 grenade launchers, Dragunov sniper rifles, Tigr armored vehicles and means of communication.
Expert on military affairs Andrey Frolov, who is the chief editor of the Russian Arms Export magazine, told Izvestiya that Russia is supplying Armenia with about the same set of weapons that was previously purchased by Azerbaijan. “These supplies will undoubtedly improve the military balance for Yerevan, but Baku will still retain certain superiority,” Frolov said.
“There is too much of a difference in the sizes of the military budgets of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Here it is difficult to speak of parity. It is possible only not to bring the gap to the critical level through targeted investments,” the Russian military expert added.
An RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent tried to get comments on the matter from Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, who attended a regular session of the Council of Defense Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization member-states in Yerevan, but the Russian official declined to communicate with Armenian journalists.