AZG Armenian Daily #100, 02/06/2005


Region

PART OF HEAVY ARTILLERY IN AKHALKALAKI WILL BE TRANSPORTED TO GYUMRI

Russia and Georgia Decide, Armenia Plays an 'Outpost'

Georgian foreign minister did not exclude that part of military equipment in
Russian 62d base of Akhalkalaki will be transported to Armenia. "We did
everything possible to convey the major part of the equipment to Russia. But
we do not exclude that part of the equipment will be distributed in the
territory of Armenia where necessary infrastructures exist", Novosti agency
quoted minister Salome Zurabishvili as saying. Earlier the foreign minister
told BBC about the possibility of ammunition transportation to Armenia
adding that Armenia is no threat for Georgia.

On May 30, Russian and Georgian foreign ministers signed a joint statement
of withdrawing the 12th base of Batumi and the 62d of Akhalkalaki by the
year 2008. The sides agreed on starting the removal this year. The base of
Akhalkalaki is first to be removed. 40 unites of armored vehicles, including
20 tanks, will get out of Akhalkalaki by September of the current year. By
the end of 2006 there will remain no heavy artillery in Akhalkalaki, and the
base will eventually close in October 1 of 2007.

Russian-Georgian agreement came for many as a surprised. Georgian President
hailed the event as "historic". The joint statement points out that "the
bases will stop functioning to their purpose" from May 30.

Russian Commersant wrote that the equipment of Batumi base will head for its
new destination via sea and the ammunition of Akhalkalaki base will be
transported to Gyumri on "trailers". On May 23 President Vladimir Putin
said, according to Interfax, "We have to create necessary conditions for the
withdrawal of our forces be it to Russia or any other place".

Under "other place" Putin obviously meant Armenia. Earlier on May 19 head of
Russia's armed forces Yuri Baluyevski said that part of the heavy artillery
of Georgia's Russian bases will settle in Armenia. While in Yerevan Dmitri
Medvedev, chief of Russian President's administration, answered a question
concerning the transportation of Russian military equipment to Armenia,
"That's a complex issue, one that needs first to be discussed by Russia and
Georgia. But there are aspects that we would like to discuss with other
neighbors as well".

This statement by Medvedev cannot but be viewed as offensive for a sovereign
state as Armenia. It turns out that Russia, preparing to convey its military
equipment, precisely rusty weapons of Soviet times, considers it first of
all an issue for Moscow and Tbilisi to discuss. Medvedev's "other neighbors"
is undoubtedly a hint at Azerbaijan, which raises an alarm that Moscow keeps
on arming aggressor Armenia.

Meanwhile official Yerevan keeps silent about the issue of conveying Russian
equipment from Georgia to Gyumri. In this situation either Russia follows
its own wishes while using Armenia's territory for its military aims, or
Armenia greets stationing of old Russian equipment in its territory. The
first variant seems more possible. Cooperation with Russia is certainly one
of the primary elements of Armenia's safety. But Moscow visibly misuses the
reality called Armenian-Russian strategic cooperation.

By Tatoul Hakobian