David Tonoyan at the Russian base in Gyumri

Armenian Defense Chief Visits Russian Troops

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GYUMRI, Armenia (RFE/RL) — Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan praised the Russian military base in Armenia and its geopolitical role when he visited its headquarters in Gyumri on Saturday.

Tonoyan attended and addressed an official ceremony there marking the 77th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian military unit.

According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, he said in a speech that the Russian military presence in Armenia “stems from the long-term strategic and political interests of our countries.”

“Davit Tonoyan stressed the importance of the military base’s role in maintaining regional stability and expressed confidence that the close [Russian-Armenian] partnership will continue to be strong and fruitful,” read a ministry statement.

The Russian base numbers up to 5,000 troops mainly deployed along Armenia’s closed border with Turkey. It has hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery systems as well as over a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets. Moscow has bolstered the base with helicopter gunships and other military hardware since a 2010 Russian-Armenian agreement extended its basing rights in Armenia to 2044.

Armenian leaders have long said that Armenia hosts Russian troops on its territory primarily because of a perceived security threat from Turkey. From Yerevan’s perspective, they preclude Turkey’s direct military intervention on Azerbaijan’s side in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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Troops from the base and the Armenian army’s Fifth Corps make up a joint Russian-Armenian military force originally set up in 2000. Moscow and Yerevan signed in November 2016 an agreement designed to upgrade its mission and ascertain its command-and-control structure.

The Russian-Armenian United Grouping of Troops most recently held exercises in October. Tonoyan watched them together with other senior military officials.

 

 

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