(RFE/RL)- Russia has begun supplying Armenia with new weapons in line with multimillion-dollar defense contracts signed by the two allied states, the Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Ivan Volynkin, said recently.
The Armenian government is to pay for the new weapons with a $200 million loan that was allocated by Moscow last year.
“The loan agreement’s implementation is in progress and is going according to plan,” Volynkin told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Contractual obligations have been signed. Supplies have already started.”
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian similarly reported last month the start of the Russian arms deliveries. But he declined to give any details.
In February, the Russian government publicized a long list of Russian-made weaponry covered by the $200 million loan. It includes the Smerch multiple-launch rocket system, TOS-1A heavy flamethrower, anti-tank weapons and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
The Armenian military demonstrated Smerch systems as well as other several other weapons acquired from Russia recently at a September 21 parade in Yerevan. The most important of those weapons are state-of-the-art Iskander missiles that will significantly improve Armenia’s capacity to strike strategic targets in Azerbaijan in case of an all-out war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Volynkin said Armenia’s acquisition of Iskander systems underlines its “brotherly” relations and alliance with Russia.
The cost and source of funding for that acquisition remains unclear. Citing senior Russian defense industry executives, the Moscow daily “Vedomosti” said earlier this month that Armenia did not use the $200 million Russian loan to pay for the advanced missiles that have a firing range of at least 300 kilometers.
Yerevan moved to speed up the loan deal’s implementation following four-day hostilities around Nagorno-Karabakh that broke out in early April. Later in April, then Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian personally asked his visiting Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev to address what he called delays in the arms supplies.
“Our leadership managed to correctly assess lessons of the [April] war and discuss them with our ally, Russia,” said Hayk Kotanjian, director of the National Institute of Strategic Studies, an Armenian Defense Ministry think-tank.
“The lessons are quite multi-layered and allow us to see the future of our relations in the medium and long term,” he told journalists.
Kotanjian said Russia has been the principal source of weaponry for the Armenian army not least because of a long-running Western embargo on arms supplies to both parties to the Karabakh conflict. “At the same time the West helps us with non-lethal weaponry,” he added, pointing to communication equipment provided to Armenia by the U.S. military.