YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The commander-in-chief of Russia’s ground forces ended on Wednesday yet another visit to Armenia during which he met top Armenian military officials and again inspected Russian troops stationed in the country.
The Armenian Defense Ministry gave no details of Colonel-General Aleksandr Postnikov’s talks with Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, Colonel-General Yuri Khachaturov.
A ministry statement said the main purpose of Postnikov’s three-day trip was to “verify and oversee” an ongoing “optimization of the order of deployment” of the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri. It said he inspected various units and facilities of the base.
The Russian general already visited Armenia twice last April for the same purpose. Armenian and Russian military officials have since given few details of the redeployment of the Russian troops. It is still not known whether their overall number will change as a result.
A senior Russian Defense Ministry official, Andrey Gusev, said in June that “excess weaponry and military hardware” from the Russian base will be transferred to the Armenian army free of charge as part of the redeployment. He did not elaborate.
Gusev assured lawmakers in Moscow that that the “optimization” will not affect the combat-readiness of the Russian troops.
The Russian base has up to 5,000 troops, dozens of tanks and armored personnel carries, S-300 air defense missiles as well as a squadron of MiG-29 fighter jets.
A Russian-Armenian agreement signed in August 2010 extended the Russian military presence in Armenia by 24 years, until 2044, and upgraded its security mission. The deal also committed Moscow to supplying the Armenian military with modern weaponry.
The Russian troop presence, a major element of Armenia’s national security doctrine, was called into question in April when Georgia decided not to renew a Russian-Georgian agreement that allowed Moscow use Georgian territory for making shipments to the Armenia base.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan downplayed the Georgian move at the time, saying that it will not lead to any “change in Armenia’s security environment.”