Armenia Denies Rodionov Report On Arms Sales

YEREVAN (Reuter)–Armenia rejected Friday charges by Russian cabinet ministers that it secretly received weapons from Moscow–an action neighboring Azerbaijan said raised the risk of war.

"I categorically deny the statemen’s made by (Defense Minister Igor) Rodionov and Aman Tuleyev (Russian Minister for cooperation with the Commonwealth of Independent States)," Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian told Reuters.

"These statemen’s have no grounds," he said.

The arms shipmen’s were first reported by Tuleyev last month and Rodionov was reported to have confirmed them in a letter–addressed to Tuleyev–on February 28.

Andrei Urnov–Russia’s ambassador to Yerevan–played down Rodionov’s commen’s. He said only Russia’s president–prime minister and certain foreign ministry officials were authorized to make such statemen’s.

"With all my respect for Rodionov–I cannot view his statement as an official one," Urnov said.

Rodionov wrote in the letter–released to the media earlier this week–that weapons were supplied free of charge to Armenia from the Russian defense ministry’s stockpiles from 1994 to 1996.

He said the transfer–including 84 tanks and 50 infantry combat vehicles – had not had 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," said Rodionov–who was appointed defense minister last July.

Azerbaijan condemned the shipmen’s–saying they violated a 1994 cease-fire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Earlier this month–Azeri Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov said Armenia had obtained offensive missile systems capable of carrying out a nuclear attack on his country. An Azeri defense ministry official said the rockets had been shipped to Armenia from Russia’some time in the last two years.

Rodionov’s letter made no mention of any missile systems. Russia’s RIA news agency on Thursday–quoted a representative of Rosvooruzheniye–the government agency which oversees arms sales–as expressing doubt that weapons had been transferred illegally to Armenia.

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