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Russian Army Chief Visits Armenia Again

Russian ground forces chief Aleksandr Postnikov
YEREVAN -- The commander-in-chief of Russia's ground forces has visited Armenia where he met top Armenian military officials and inspected Russian troops stationed in the country, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The Armenian Defense Ministry gave no details of Colonel General Aleksandr Postnikov's talks with Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and the chief of the Armenian army's General Staff, Colonel General Yuri Khachaturov.

A ministry statement said the main purpose of Postnikov's three-day trip -- which ended on November 2 -- was to "verify and oversee" an ongoing "optimization of the order of deployment" of the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri.

It said he inspected various units and facilities at the base.

Postnikov already visited Armenia twice in April for the same purpose. Armenian and Russian military officials have since given few details of the redeployment of Russian troops. It is unknown whether their overall number will change as a result of the redistribution

Senior Russian Defense Ministry official Andrei Gusev said in June that "excess weaponry and military hardware" from the Russian base will be transferred to the Armenian army for free as part of the redeployment. He did not elaborate.

Gusev assured lawmakers in Moscow that that the "optimization" will not affect the combat-readiness of Russian troops.

The Russian base has up to 5,000 soldiers, more than 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers, S-300 air defense missiles, and a squadron of MiG-29 fighter jets.

A Russian-Armenian agreement signed in August 2010 extended the Russian military presence in Armenia by 24 years, until 2044, and upgraded its security mission. The deal also committed Moscow to supplying Armenia with modern weaponry.

The Russian troop presence, a major element of Armenia's national security doctrine, was called into question in April when Georgia decided not to renew a Russian-Georgian agreement that allowed Moscow to use Georgian territory for shipments to Armenia.

The Armenian Defense Ministry downplayed the Georgian move at the time, saying that it will not lead to any "change in Armenia's security environment."

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