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Yerevan Sees Stronger Russian Military Presence In Armenia


Armenia -- Russian and Armenian troops hold joint military exercises at the Alagyaz shooting range, September 24, 2020.

Russia is helping Armenia modernize its armed forces after the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh and will also expand Russian military presence in the South Caucasus state, according to Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian.

“The issue of expanding and reinforcing the Russian military base in the Republic of Armenia has always been on the agenda and the Armenian side has always been interested in that,” Harutiunian told the RIA Novosti news agency in an interview published on Monday.

“Of course, the leadership of Russia’s Defense Ministry has taken into account existing military-political realities in the region and taken right steps towards strengthening and rearming the base, and I’m sure that this is going to be a long-term process,” he said without elaborating.

Harutiunian stressed that there is “no need” to open a second Russian base in Armenia. “It’s probably more correct to speak about the possibility of a redeployment of a detachment of the [existing] Russian base, given its expansion, to Armenia’s eastern direction,” he said, adding that Moscow and Yerevan are already working on that.

Harutiunian referred to Armenia’s Syunik province bordering districts southwest of Karabakh which were retaken by Azerbaijan during and after the six-week war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10. Russia deployed soldiers and border guards to the region to help the Armenian military defend it against possible Azerbaijani attacks.

Yerevan announced plans to further deepen Russian-Armenian military ties shortly after the war. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stated on New Year’s Eve that his country now needs “new security guarantees.” Pashinian reaffirmed those plans at a January 11 meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Later in January, a delegation led by Colonel-General Sergei Istrakov, the deputy chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, visited Yerevan for nearly weeklong negotiations with the Armenian army’s top brass.

Harutiunian told RIA Novosti that the talks were aimed at “assisting us in the reform and modernization of Armenia’s armed forces.” The two sides worked out concrete “recommendations” on how to modernize the Armenian army in the current circumstances, he said.

“A very serious emphasis was put on the military-technical component of the matter,” the minister added in reference to arms acquisitions.

Russian military officials are thus already involved in Armenian defense reforms in “in the most direct way,” he said.

Armenia has long received Russian weapons at knockdown prices and even for free thanks to its bilateral defense agreements with Russia and membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization.

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