Russia has supplied Armenia with more weapons and other military equipment in response to the April 2016 fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, a senior Russian lawmaker said during a visit to Yerevan on Monday.
“We do realize that after the 2016 escalation, which was initiated by one of the parties, Armenian public opinion showed serious discontent with Russia regarding arms supplies to Azerbaijan on the part of Russia,” Konstantin Zatulin told reporters. “We very much regret that Azerbaijan found no use for them other than violating the ceasefire agreement on the [Karabakh] Line of Contact reached in 1994 with our help.”
“We have drawn conclusions regarding the breach of the military balance in the region and provided Armenia with state-of-the-art defense equipment which we had a chance to see at the [September 2016] military parade organized on the occasion of [Armenia’s] Republic Day,” said the deputy chairman of a Russian State Duma committee on relations with former Soviet republics.
Despite its military alliance with Armenia, Russia signed an estimated $5 billion worth of defense contracts with Azerbaijan in 2009-2011. Many in Armenia feel that the resulting deliveries of hundreds of Russian tanks, artillery systems and combat helicopters to Baku encouraged the latter to launch the April 2016 offensive in Karabakh.
The four-day hostilities, which Moscow helped to halt, left at least 180 soldiers from both warring sides dead.It was the worst escalation of the Karabakh conflict since 1994.
Visiting Yerevan earlier this month, another senior Russian lawmaker, Konstantin Kosachev, indicated that Moscow will scale down its future arms dealings with Baku. “Of course, we are reacting to what occurred in April 2016,” said Kosachev, who chairs the foreign relations committee of the Federation Council, the Russian upper house of parliament.
The fresh Russian arms supplies to Armenia mentioned by Zatulin stem, in part, from a $200 million Russian loan allocated in June 2015. The Armenian military has used that money for buying, among other things, Smerch multiple-launch rocket system, thermobaric and anti-tank rocket systems and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
At its September 2016 parade in Yerevan, the military also demonstrated medium-range Buk air-defense systems and, more importantly, Iskander tactical missiles. Armenia most probably received the precision-guided missiles shortly before or after the four-day war in Karabakh.
In October 2017, the Armenian government announced that Moscow will provide it with a further $100 million loan that will be spent on the purchase of more Russian weapons at internal Russian prices set well below international market-based levels. Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakarian said in December that the Armenian side has already finalized three defense contracts with Russian arms manufacturers as part of the loan agreement.
Zatulin, who is known for his pro-Armenian views on the Karabakh conflict, on Monday also denounced Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s recent pledge to “return Azerbaijanis” to Yerevan and other parts of Armenia which he called “historic Azerbaijani lands.” “It’s just not clear how anyone can take such a statement seriously,” added the veteran lawmaker.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also criticized Aliyev’s remarks last month. Nevertheless, the Azerbaijani leader repeated his claims last week.