MOSCOW — Defense Ministers of Russia and Armenia Sergey Shoigu and Vigen Sargsian have signed an agreement on reinforcing a joint Russian-Armenian military force that was created more than a decade ago. The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the CIS Defense Ministers Council session in Moscow today.

In particular, the group’s main task will be covering the land areas of the state borders of Russian in Armenia, also in collaboration with the forces and means of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Neither man made public statements immediately after signing the unpublicized deal that was formally approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

Russia’s Defense Ministry cited a November 14 statement by the Kremlin saying that the deal will ensure “adequate reaction to armed attacks and other challenges and threats to the security of the parties.” The joint force will protect Armenia’s and Russia’s borders, the ministry added without elaborating.

The contingent set up in 2000 comprises troops from the Russian military base in Armenia and the Armenian army’s Fifth Corps. They have held exercises on an annual basis, most recently in October, typically simulating joint military operations against an invading enemy.

It is not yet clear whether the Russian-Armenian force will be enlarged as a result of the agreement negotiated by the two sides for the past several months.

In an interview with the Moscow newspaper “Izvestia” published on Monday, Sargsian said the agreement will upgrade the status of the joint force headed by an Armenian army general. He said it will also clarify the military unit’s mission, composition, command-and-control structure and details of its possible deployments.

“The main task of the United Group of Troops is to identify preparation of military aggression against Armenia and Russia in a timely manner and to repel it jointly with the armed forces of Armenia and Russia,” added Sargsian.

Some Azerbaijani observers and even pro-government lawmakers have already denounced the new Russian-Armenian defense accord as further proof of Russian support for Armenia in the Karabakh conflict.

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