YEREVAN–Armenia and Russia finished on Friday annual joint exercises of their armed forces–involving hundreds of troops–tanks–artillery systems–helicopter gunships and military aircraft.
An Armenian army regiment and a battalion of Russian troops stationed in Armenia fought back a simulated enemy assault at a training ground 40 kilometers west of Yerevan–in the presence of President Robert Kocharian and his entire cabinet. The five-day war games ended with a symbolic hoisting of Armenian and Russian flags at the starting point of the imaginary invasion.
"Supreme commander [Kocharian] has concluded that the exercises have taken place successfully," Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian told reporters afterwards. "We will strive to further improve the combat readiness of the other units of our armed forces."
The event highlighted close military ties forged by Russia and Armenia’shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The military alliance with Moscow has since been the cornerstone of Yerevan’s security doctrine.
Sarkisian also expressed his satisfaction with the results of last month’s air defense drills of Russian and several other ex-Soviet forces held in southern Russia. The minister personally followed the drills and praised the "incredibly good" performance of an Armenian anti-aircraft unit.
Several S-300 surface-to-air missile systems–the bedrock of the air defense system of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization–were put on display at the site of the Russian-Armenian exercises. The missiles are capable of detecting and shooting down air targets hundreds of kilometers away from Armenian territory. They were deployed in Armenia by the Russian military in 1999–along with two dozen MiG-29 fighter jets.