YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—During a fresh phone call on Wednesday Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu reportedly discussed with his Armenian counterpart Vagharshak Harutiunyan Russia’s military presence in Armenia and sweeping defense reforms announced by Yerevan.
The Russian Defense Ministry gave no details of the conversation, saying only that the two men spoke about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and “other issues of mutual interest.”
According to a longer readout of the phone call released by the Armenian Defense Ministry, Harutiunyan and Shoigu focused on the activities of the Russian military base in Armenia as well as “large-scale reforms launched in the Armenian army” after last year’s war with Azerbaijan.
Harutiunyan and the chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, also discussed the reforms when they spoke by phone on March 23. Harutiunyan’s press office said they agreed that a high-ranking Russian delegation will visit Yerevan soon for more detailed talks on the subject.
A delegation led by one of Gerasimov’s deputies, Colonel-General Sergei Istrakov, already held weeklong negotiations with the Armenian army’s top brass in Yerevan in January. Harutiunyan said afterwards that the talks were aimed at “assisting us in the reform and modernization of Armenia’s armed forces.”
The minister said concrete “recommendations” have already been made on how to rearm the Armenian army in the current circumstances. He did not elaborate.
Harutiunyan’s also asserted that that the Russian military base in Gyumri will be expanded in view of the post-war “military-political realities in the region.” He suggested that more Russian troops could be deployed to Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province.
Syunik borders districts southwest of Karabakh which were retaken by Azerbaijan during and after the six-week war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10. Russia deployed soldiers and border guards to the region to help the Armenian military defend it against possible Azerbaijani attacks.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan said “security issues in Syunik” were also on the agenda of Harutiunyan’s latest phone call with Shoigu.
The conversation came as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan flew to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Pashinyan announced plans to further deepen Russian-Armenian military ties shortly after the Karabakh war. He said his country now needs “new security guarantees.”