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Armenia, Azerbaijan Conducting Large-Scale Military Exercises


Artillery drills at Armenia’s Vazgen Sargsian Military University in Yerevan, May 19, 2020

Large-scale military exercises begin in Armenia on Tuesday, one day after Azerbaijan launched four-day drills involving thousands of troops.

According to Deputy Defense Minister Arman Sargsian, during the first major military exercises since a defeat of Armenian forces in a war against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh last fall, Armenia’s armed forces will aim to test their defense capability.

Earlier, Armenia’s Ministry of Defense said that the March 16-20 drills will involve 7,500 soldiers, about 100 tanks and armored vehicles, some 300 artillery and anti-aircraft systems as well as aviation.

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.”

“Every military exercise has its own clear goal: it is to check the defense capability of troops, the general use of available resources, and so on. I can say that at this moment the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia are in control of the situation,” Deputy Defense Minister Sargsian said.

In its statement the Ministry of Defense did not specify whether unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will also be used in the exercises. But over the past two weeks Armenia’s High-Tech Industry Minister Hakob Arshakian has been posting videos of tests of Armenian-made combat UAVs on Facebook and Twitter. According to the minister, these drones can operate at a distance of up to 500 kilometers and carry up to 12 kilograms of explosives.

According to military expert Karen Hovhannisian, the scale of exercises announced by Armenia shows that the nation also wants to demonstrate its force after the defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh, where hostilities were stopped due to a Russian-brokered ceasefire that took effect on November 10.

“In other words, it is a kind of message that after the war the armed forces of Armenia are quickly back on their feet, having restored their potential,” the expert said.

Political analyst Ruben Mehrabian also said that the current military exercises primarily carry a political message about Armenia “restoring its military potential and seeking to regain its role in regional events.”

“The fact that only four months after the end of the war large-scale tactical military exercises are being held in Armenia is already an important event on the way towards strengthening the security of Armenia,” Mehrabian said.

Meanwhile, on March 15, Azerbaijan began four-day large-scale military exercises with the participation of 10,000 troops, about 100 tank units, other armored vehicles, missile systems, aircraft, including drones.

The Defense Ministry in Baku said last week that the drills would be held in unspecified mountainous areas.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Friday that the Azerbaijani war games were planned beforehand and suggested that they would not jeopardize “stability and security in the region.”

Last month Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian said that Russia, which has a military base in Armenia, is helping Yerevan 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.

In an interview with foreign media on February 26, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that Russia should avoid helping Armenia modernize its army and urged it “not to give weapons to Yerevan,” according to TASS.

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