The Russian Duma’s Defense Committee Chairman, Gen. Lev Rokhlin, on February 13 accused former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev of bearing personal responsibility for the unlawful delivery of 84 T-72 tanks and 50 BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles to Armenia in 1995-1996, without the required authorizations from the Russian president and government. (Interfax, February 13) The Minister for Cooperation with CIS Countries, Aman Tuleyev, corroborated the charges the following day and asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the secretaries of both the Security and Defense Councils to look into the deal, which is estimated to have been worth 271 billion rubles. Tuleyev said that there was no official agreement to supply Russian arms to Armenia and that no money from the deal had been received by any government agency. (Interfax, RIA, February 14) Armenia’s Foreign Ministry and the Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Andrei Urnov, denied the charges. The Ministry retorted that the allegations introduced additional tensions in the region, and Urnov stated that arms supplied to Armenia are destined for Russian forces based in the country, rather than for Armenian forces. (Noyan-Tapan, February 15, 17)
Also on February 14, the Russian newspaper Moskovsky komsomolets ran a story exposing a broader pattern of similar illegal arms deals made by groups of high-ranking officers in the Caucasus. The paper said that one of Defense Minister Igor Rodionov’s first acts as minister was to send inspectors to military depots in the region, where they reportedly found “a colossal shortage” of arms. This weaponry, the paper intimated, had been used by military leaders, acting with a significant degree of independence, to pursue Moscow’s foreign policy goals in the region — i.e., to encourage the separatist movements in Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The newspaper alleged that unreported profits from the arms transfers involved had enriched a network of military, intelligence, and defense industrial officials. It also warned against allowing "this now smooth-running corporation of murderers" to continue activities that will only bring more bloodshed to the Caucasus and elsewhere.
Tajikistan Hostage Crisis Ends Peacefully, But Questions Persist.