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Armenian Army To Hold Exercises


Armenia -- Smerch multiple-launch systems fire rockets during an Armenian military exercise, May 21, 2020.

Armenia’s armed forces will hold major military exercises next week for the first time since the war in Nagorno-Karabakh stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.

The Armenian Defense Ministry announced on Friday that the five-day exercises will start on March 16 and involve 7,500 soldiers, about 100 tanks and armored vehicles, some 300 artillery and anti-aircraft systems as well as warplanes and helicopters.

A ministry statement said they will take place in “all operational directions of the armed forces” in accordance with the Armenian army’s training plan for the first half of this year.

The statement added that the drills are designed to “check the combat-readiness of troops” and their ability to “rapidly act in the existing situation.”

Azerbaijan will also hold next week military exercises involving thousands of soldiers. The Defense Ministry in Baku said earlier this week that they will be held in unspecified mountainous areas.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Friday that the Azerbaijani war games scheduled for March 15-18 were planned beforehand and will not jeopardize “stability and security in the region.”

Zakharova declined to comment on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s recent threats to force Yerevan to open a transport “corridor” between Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave passing through Armenia’s Syunik province. Aliyev described Syunik as “historical Azerbaijani lands.”

During and after last year’s Karabakh war Russia deployed soldiers and border guards in Syunik to help the Armenian military defend it against possible Azerbaijani attacks. Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian did not rule out last month the possibility of more Russian troop deployments to the area that also borders Iran.

Armenia -- Soldiers at an Armenian military base lined up for inspection, March 9, 2021.
Armenia -- Soldiers at an Armenian military base lined up for inspection, March 9, 2021.

Harutiunian also said that Russia is now helping Armenia restructure and modernize its armed forces. He said concrete “recommendations” have already been made on how to rearm the Armenian army but did not give any details.

Incidentally, Harutiunian had another phone call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday. According to the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, they discussed bilateral military ties and Russia’s ongoing peacekeeping operation in Karabakh launched immediately after the November ceasefire.

Yerevan announced plans to further deepen Russian-Armenian military cooperation following the six-week war.

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