The first large group of Armenian interior troops joined army units in guarding Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan on Thursday as part of an unprecedented redeployment ordered by the new government.
They headed to some sections of the heavily militarized border immediately after an farewell ceremony in Yerevan attended by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and other senior officials.
The troops that are part of the national police service have until now been tasked with only ensuring internal security and dealing with violent unrest in the country. Pashinian ordered them to also protect the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier on a rotating basis shortly after coming to power in May.
Speaking at the ceremony, Pashinian described their new mission as “historic,” saying that they will not only help the Armenian military but also improve their public image. “Our objective is to ensure that Armenia’s citizens perceive the police and the police troops as protectors of their security, Armenian statehood and the constitution,” he said.
The Armenian police chief, Valeri Osipian, said earlier this week that police personnel will serve at the border on two-week tours of duty and receive additional payments for that. They look forward to their new task, Osipian told reporters.
Daniel Ioannisian, a civic activist who sits on new government commissions formed by Pashinian, welcomed the redeployment. “The public always wondered who the possible enemies of the police troops are, and this only deepened distrust between the public and the police,” he said. “That problem was somewhat addressed as soon as it was announced that the police troops will also be defending the country’s borders.”