YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — In a stern rebuke to Moscow, President Serzh Sarkisian told Russia’s visiting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev late on Thursday that Azerbaijan used Russian weapons purchased in recent years during heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh that broke out a week ago.
The two men discussed the unprecedented escalation and Russian efforts to defuse tensions in the Karabakh conflict zone when they met in Yerevan.
“Dmitry Anatolievich, I’m sure you know that the fact that the Azerbaijanis used in full weapons that they acquired in Russia recently has had a lot of resonance in Armenia,” Sarkisian said in his opening remarks at the meeting. “This is natural because the people of Armenia consider Russia to be our closest ally and friend.”
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian likewise told Medvedev earlier on Thursday that the Azerbaijani army used Russian-made T-90 tanks, TOS-1A flamethrowers and devastating Smerch rocket systems during the fighting. Baku bought these and other weapons as part of defense contracts with Moscow worth at least $4 billion. They were reportedly signed in 2009-2011, at a time when Medvedev served as Russia’s president.
Armenian critics of these deals argue that unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia is allied to Russia politically and militarily. They say that the Russian arms sales to Armenia’s arch-foe run counter to that alliance even considering the fact that Moscow has long been providing military assistance to Yerevan.
Medvedev did not react to Sarkisian’s complaint at the start of the talks. It is not clear whether Sarkisian demanded a halt to further arms deliveries to Baku after the talks continued behind the closed doors.
According to the TASS news agency, one of Medvedev’s deputies, Dmitry Rogozin, defended the Russian-Azerbaijani arms deals when he spoke to reporters in Baku on Friday. He hinted that Moscow intends to complete arms deliveries envisaged by them.
Sarkisian also told Medvedev that Yerevan expects from Moscow “targeted statements and concrete actions” that would keep Baku from again ratcheting up tensions in the conflict zone. He warned that another “large-scale” Azerbaijani attack on Karabakh would result in a full-blown war.
Medvedev proceeded to Baku on Friday. Meeting with the Russian premier, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev claimed that he had “no intentions to start large-scale hostilities” along the Karabakh “line of contact.” “We simply defended our positions and peaceful lives of our citizens,” Aliyev said.