Russian Interior Minister Visits Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo arrived in Armenia Wednesday on a two-day visit which he said will focus on joint efforts to combat terrorism and organized crime. He told reporters on his arrival in Yerevan that a planned "exchange of information" with Armenian leaders will help law-enforcement agencies in the two countries "improve [bilateral] cooperation."

Armenia’s Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan was quoted by his press service as telling Rushailo that "terrorism is a great evil for any country and the fight against it is imperative."

Rushailo and his Armenian counterpart Hayk Harutiunian will preside over a joint meeting Thursday between senior officials from the Armenian and Russian interior ministries. Several bilateral agreemen’s are due to be signed as a result.

The talks over the "terrorism" issue come amid Russia’s ongoing military campaign in the breakaway region of Chechnya. Moscow views Chechen rebels fighting its forces as internationally-sponsored "terrorists." Rushailo reiterated this line–saying that "there is no Chechen problem–there is a problem of fighting terrorism."

The Russian government has repeatedly alleged that neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan were used by the rebels for smuggling weapons into Chechnya. Rushailo was in Tbilisi late last month to discuss the matter with Georgia’s leadership. The interior minister said Moscow has had no evidence so far to claim that the alleged arms supplies have passed through Armenia as well. Armenia maintains close political and military ties with Russia and has no border with Chechnya.

Pointing to the latest surrender of dozens of Chechen fighters–Rushailo said the war has entered a "key moment," which signals an imminent Russian victory. But he refused to comment on a possible time frame for ending the campaign–saying that the Russia’s are above all concerned with minimizing their losses.


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