MOSCOW (RFE/RL)—Russia has officially admitted supplying more tanks and other heavy weapons to Azerbaijan than Armenia in the past several years, in annual reports submitted to the United Nations.
Citing Russian government data, the UN Register of Conventional Arms revealed this week that Azerbaijan received 72 tanks, 34 armored vehicles, 456 artillery systems, 37 attack helicopters and 1,200 rockets and missile systems from Russia in 2007-2013.
By comparison, Moscow reported the delivery to Armenia of 35 tanks, 200 rockets or missiles and 50 launchers used for them. The Armenian military also received 110 Russian armored vehicles in the same period. Most of those deliveries took place last year, according to the UN registry.
Some observers believe that the real amount of Russian arms supplies to Yerevan, mainly carried out at knockdown prices or free of charge, is larger than is shown by the official data. They say that a considerable part of Russia’s military assistance to its main regional ally is not officially declared.
Still, Russian-Azerbaijani military cooperation is causing growing concern in Yerevan even if Armenian officials avoid publicly criticizing it. Representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Wednesday declined to comment on the latest revelation about the scale of that cooperation.
Opposition politicians did not shy away from denouncing Moscow’s arms deals with Baku. Naira Zohrabian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force, called them “troubling.” “We have to do something serious about that,” she said. “We must not be satisfied by Russian officials’ explanations that it’s a merely commercial affair.”
Former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian, a pro-Western opposition figure, said that Russia is acting against the spirit of its military alliance with Armenia and that the latter must stop regarding it as a reliable partner. “Russia’s sole leverage in the South Caucasus is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Arzumanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “From their perspective, it is in Russia’s interests to keep tension high and act like the main arbiter in case of a renewed [Armenian-Azerbaijan] war.”
Russia’s arms sales to Armenia’s arch-foe are continuing despite the Armenian concerns. In particular, the Azerbaijani army has yet to take delivery of most of about 100 T-90 tanks purchased from Moscow in 2012. Russian and Azerbaijani officials have estimated the total volume of bilateral defense contracts signed since 2010 at nearly $4 billion. The Moscow daily “Kommersant” reported last month that the figure could rise to $5 billion by the end of this year.