Potekhin Says Russian Border Troops Will not be Reduced

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Armenia has not had any serious problems with Turkey since 1993–and–since 1996 there have been no border incidents related to the Kurdish struggle said Major-General Yevgeny Potekhin–the commander of Russian troops on the Armenia-Turkey border.

The general acknowledged a handful of minor exceptions–five trespassers from Turkish territory were apprehended last year–but all of them were pursuing personal apolitical business.

Potekhin also said that there might be violations on the part of Kurdish groups when Turkish armed forces launch operations against the so-called guerrilla bases. "Our border troops are aware of this and are on high alert," said the general–adding that no Turkish military operations are being conducted along the Armenian border.

Potekhin said that the inquiries into reports of weapon fire coming from Turkish territory near the towns of Artashat and Ararat last year revealed that Turkish soldiers had been ordered to open fire in case of any sound or movement. Potenkhin explained that as night falls–soldiers get nervous and sometimes pull the triggers for fear of Kurdish attacks. "I know how it happens from my Afghan experience," said the general. The Turkish side admitted these nervous mistakes and is taking appropriate measures. Potekhin said that shootings can be heard from time to time–but no bullets come across the border.

Potekhin voiced confidence that no reduction will be made in the Russian military force stationed along the Armenia-Turkish border–despite the recent statement made by the director of the Federal Border Service of Russia–Nikolay Bordiuzha claiming that Russian border troops contingents should be reduced in a number of CIS countries–including Armenia. There may be certain staffing corrections in the force in Armenia–but those will never curtail its fighting capacity.

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