A group of five MiG-29 fighter planes landed on December 16 at Yerebuni military airport outside Yerevan. This represents the first move in a program to strengthen the aviation and air defense components of Russian forces based in Armenia. The batch of five were delivered on arrival by Russia’s airforce commander, Colonel-General Anatoly Kornukov, who began on December 16 a visit to Armenia. The country currently hosts a Russian squadron of all-weather MiG-23 fighter-interceptors.
The upgrade program was agreed upon during Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev’s visit to Armenia earlier this year. It also apparently includes a plan to deploy Russian surface-to-air S-300 missiles. Armenia is a participant in the Russian-led CIS joint air defense system and has a bilateral agreement with Russia on the operation of a common air defense.
Prime Minister Armen Darbinian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, greeting the Russian airmen on landing, pledged that Armenia will create attractive living conditions for Russian officers and technical specialists and their families. They revealed that the government has prepared 130 apartments for families of Russian officers involved in this program–a figure to be taken as a possible clue to the program’s extent at this stage (Noyan-Tapan, AFP, Itar-Tass, December 16, 17).
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