YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia is continuing to acquire Russian-manufactured weapons and other military equipment as part of its close defense links with Russia, Deputy Defense Minister Davit Pakhchanian said on Wednesday.
In particular, Pakhchanian announced that the Armenian army has received such weaponry purchased with a $200 million Russian loan disbursed to Yerevan in 2015.
“What was planned within the framework of the first [Russian] loan has already been delivered, and there is an agreement to continue that work,” he told a news conference. “That is a serious component of our arms acquisitions. Our cooperation with Russia is now going quite well.”
The weapons covered by that loan are believed to include, among other things, Smerch multiple-launch rocket system, thermobaric TOS-1A and anti-tank Kornet rocket systems, and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
The Armenian government announced in October 2017, that Moscow will provide it with a further $100 million loan that will be spent on buying more Russian weapons at internal Russian prices set well below international market-based levels. Armenia is entitled to such price discounts due to its membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Despite these close military ties, Russia has sold Armenia’s arch-foe Azerbaijan at least $4 billion worth of tanks, artillery systems, combat helicopters and other weaponry in the last several years. Armenian leaders have publicly criticized these arms deals, saying that they contributed to the April 2016 fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Visiting Yerevan earlier this month, a senior Russian pro-government lawmaker indicated that Moscow will scale down its future arms dealings with Baku in response to the Armenian criticism.
“We are obviously unhappy with Russian arms supplies to Azerbaijan,” said Pakhchanian. “The Russian side is now saying that the scale of those supplies will be cut significantly.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. government reportedly warned that Yerevan will risk U.S. sanctions in case of signing “substantial deals” with Russia’s state-owned defense industry.
“Of course, sanctions are a problem but we need to ensure our security and our actions on this issue will be first and foremost based on our interests,” Pakhchanian said in this regard.
The official made clear that Armenia is also keen to step up “military-technical cooperation” with other foreign nations, including China, Serbia and NATO member Poland. Incidentally, defense companies from these and a dozen other nations, including Germany and Italy, will take part in an arms exhibition that will open in Yerevan on Thursday.
Pakhchanian further said that the Armenian military is increasingly reliant on the domestic defense industry in its arms acquisitions and other procurements. Armenian companies manufacture items such as unmanned aerial vehicles, radars and electronic equipment using laser technology.