MOSCOW (RFE/RL)—Russia has delivered a new batch of anti-tank missile systems to Azerbaijan as part of lucrative arms deals with Baku that have been strongly criticized by Armenia over the past year.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released over the weekend video of around a dozen self-propelled Khrizantema-S systems unloaded from a Russian cargo ship that docked at Baku’s Caspian Sea port.
Khrizantema-S is designed to detect and destroy tanks, armored vehicles, field fortifications and even some low-flying aerial targets with guided missiles. It entered service with the Russian Armed Forces in 2005.
Azerbaijan is known to have received 10 such systems in 2015. It reportedly commissioned them in 2014.
Armenia’s top military officials on Monday declined to comment on the latest delivery. Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian said he will comment at a news conference later this week.
“It’s the political leadership that deals with this issue and it will react,” Colonel General Movses Hakobian, the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) for his part.
Russia has also sold around $5 billion worth of tanks, artillery systems and other weapons to Azerbaijan in line with defense contracts signed in 2009-2011. According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, it shipped six heavy artillery systems to the Azerbaijani military last year.
Armenian leaders stepped up their criticism of those arms deals following Azerbaijan’s April 2016 offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh. They said that the arms supplies run contrary to Russia’s military alliance in Armenia and encourage Baku to attempt a military solution to the Karabakh conflict.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev rejected the Armenian criticism after visiting Yerevan later in April 2016. He said that that Russia delivers weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan and thereby sustains the “military balance” in the conflict.
In August, Russian President Vladimir Putin similarly denied that Moscow has increased the risk of another Karabakh war. Speaking after talks in the Kremlin with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian, Putin implied that oil-rich Azerbaijan could have purchased offensive weapons from other nations. He also argued that Russia has long been providing substantial military aid to Armenia.
The Armenia army demonstrated new weapons recently acquired from Russia during a September 2016 military parade in Yerevan. Those included Iskander ballistic missiles.