Rodionov Says Weapons Transferred to Armenia Illegally

MOSCOW (Reuter) – Russia’s defense ministry acknowledged publicly on Thursday that weapons were illegally supplied by Moscow to Armenia for several years.

"From 1994-96 military technology was supplied free of charge to Armenia from the Russian defense ministry’s stockpiles," defense minister Igor Rodionov wrote in a letter released to the media.

The letter–addressed to Aman Tuleyev–Russian minister for cooperation with the Commonwealth of Independent States–was dated February 28 and was released by Tuleyev on Thursday.

A defense ministry spokesman confirmed the contents of the letter by telephone.

Rodionov said the transferincluding 84 tanks and 50 infantry combat vehiclestook place without Russian government approval. He did not provide details of how the transfer of weapons took place or who was involved.

The case "has been sent to the main military prosecutor’s office for further investigation," he said.

Armenia’s foreign ministry–which has previously denied weapons transfers–was not available for comment.

Armenia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian is on an official visit to the Middle East.

Earlier this month Azeri Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov alleged Armenia had obtained offensive missile systems capable of carrying out a nuclear attack on his country. An Azeri defense ministry official claimed the rockets were shipped to Armenia from Russia during the last two years.

"These rockets have a radius of 190 miles and can be equipped with nuclear warheads," Hasanov said.

Rodionov’s letter made no mention of any missile systems. RIA news agency on Thursday quoted a representative of Rosvooruzheniye–the government agency which oversees arms sales–as doubting illegal transfers of weapons to Armenia.

"The existing rules of arms and military hardware trading completely preclude their sale without the relevant permission of the supreme bodies of the state power," RIA quoted the official as saying.

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