In an interview with the Russian news agency Ria Novostyi, Arutjunyan stressed that the expansion and strengthening of the Russian military base in Armenian territory has always been on the agenda. The base, established in 1995 in Gyumri, currently serves about 3,000 Russian soldiers.
Armenian opposition politicians have urged the establishment of a second Russian military base in the southern Shunun region, located between Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani exclave, Nakhichevan.
Arutjunjan said he sees no point in officially opening a second Russian base. However, he said that Moscow and Yerevan are considering relocating a Russian military unit from its existing base to the eastern half of Armenia near the Azerbaijani border.
The war conflict over Azerbaijan, which unilaterally separated and then declared itself independent of Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh, erupted in 1988, even during the existence of the Soviet Union, and has since led to repeated armed clashes between Armenians and Azeris. Fighting in the area resumed on September 27 last year. Azerbaijan has decided to retake the enclave with arms and has managed to bring significant areas under its control. The fighting ended with a ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow on 9 November.
According to this, Moscow commanded about two thousand peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh. Under the agreement, the Azerbaijani army could retain the recaptured territories in the southern part of the enclave and even open a corridor through Armenian territory to the Nahicevan exclave, which belongs to Azerbaijan but is territorially separate from it. At the same time, the ceasefire agreement also provides Armenia with a corridor to Nagorno-Karabakh. More than three hundred settlements – including several cities – and several plateaus came under the control of the Azerbaijani army, and military successes forced Armenia to return the districts of Agdam, Kelbeceri and Lacini bordering Nagorno-Karabakh.
Cover image source: Sasha Mordovets / Getty Images
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