Russia to upgrade Armenia's air force
31 August 2020

Talks are underway to purchase a new batch of Su-30SM fighters, Armenian Defence Minister Davit Tonoyan told RFE/RL's Armenian service. 

"We have also signed an agreement on the modernization program for 4 Su-25s, which we have not been able to implement for many years, but now it has become a reality," the minister said, adding that the modernization of fighters will be carried out in Russia. 

The minister added that they were also encouraged by the creation of private Armenian-Russian organizations in the military industry. 

In the meantime in Baku Azerbaijani officials have expressed disquiet at what they say has been a suspected Russian military build-up of Armenian forces since the clashes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in July. 

In comments on Saturday, Hikmet Hajiyev, a Senior Adviser to Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev,  expressed concern on a number of shipments to Armenia by Russian Il-76 strategic airlifters since July 17.   

On August 12, President Aliyev personally expressed his concern over Russian military shipments to Armenia in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was reflected in the Azerbaijani read-out of the phone conversation but not the Kremlin's version. In a visit to Baku on August 25, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that the shipments contained construction materials for a Russian military base in the Armenian province of Gyumri. However, Hajiyev's recent comments express dissatisfaction with this answer, claiming that construction materials could be delivered by other means and requesting further explanation from Russia.  

On Monday (31 August), Azerbaijani MP Arzu Naghiyev made further accusations during an interview for Real TV channel, adding that any supply of Russian arms to Armenia would undermine the authority of Russia as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, hindering a solution.   

The Russian Foreign Ministry has not yet replied to a request by Reuters news agency and other media outlets for comment. 

Russia has provided both Armenia and Azerbaijan with billions of dollars-worth of military equipment. When challenged Russian officials say that they are trying to maintain strategic parity between the two countries. 

Sources: with Radio Liberty, Trend, Reuters, and other agencies 

Photo: Armenian air force planes during a display at a recent national day celebration (archive picture)