Russia prolongs military presence in Armenia by decades
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Last Updated: Saturday, August 21, 2010, 00:18
Moscow: Bolstering Moscow's defence clout in the strategic Caucasus region, Russia and Armenia today signed an agreement to extend the lease of its military base in the former Soviet republic through 2044.

The deal, inked during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Yerevan, saw the term of the 1995 treaty that allowed on hosting military base till 2020 in Gyumri, Armenia's second largest city near its border with Turkey - a NATO member, extended from 25 to 49 years.

According to Russian media reports the agreement was signed by the defence ministers of the two countries after summit talks between Medvedev and his Armenian host Serzh Sargsyan.

Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said the the only thing that had changed in the 1995 treaty was the length of the lease.

"One thing has changed - the extension to 49 years," Serdyukov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

However, he emphasised that "there was no money involved" in extending the lease.

Georgia, a NATO aspirant, has flayed the agreement saying since the Soviet times there was no such large military presence (of Russia) in the Caucasus and this can only cause concern for it, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

Russia fought a five day war with Georgia after Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away with Tbilisi two-year ago. Moscow has already set up two separate military bases under security pacts with them.

Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan, which has an old conflict with Armenia over annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh by Yerevan, expressed hope that Russian base will not be used for aggression against it, the radio reported.

Russian 102nd Military Base has been deployed in Gyumri since 1995 and is part of a Commonwealth of Independent States integrated air defence system under the command of North Caucasus Military District, which was directly involved in hostilities with Georgia two years ago.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Serdyukov said the deployment for Russian troops had been agreed for a long time and were not affected by the new document and their mission has not changed.

According to the media there are around 5,000 Russian personnel, as well as S-300 surface-to-air missile systems and MiG-29 fighters are deployed on the Gyumri base.

Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan said earlier in the week that Russia would also provide Armenia with arms and modern military equipment.


First Published: Saturday, August 21, 2010, 00:18

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