MOSCOW (RFE/RL)—Russia is to deliver 12 more heavy flamethrowers to Azerbaijan as part of multimillion-dollar arms deals with Baku that have caused outrage in Armenia, its main regional ally.
The Azerbaijani news agency APA revealed on Monday that the Azerbaijani army will receive soon 6 TOS-1A systems manufactured by Uralvagonzavod, a state-run Russian defense company. It said a third and final batch of these weapons designed to support advancing tanks and infantry will be supplied later on.
According to APA, Azerbaijan already took delivery of six such multiple-launch systems last year and put them on display during a June 2013 military parade in Baku.
A TOS-1A system can fire up to 24 incendiary or thermobaric rockets in a single salvo. With a 6-kilometer range, the rockets are designed to destroy enemy personnel, armored vehicles and transport.
News of the supplies of the flamethrowers came just days after a senior Russian defense official said that Azerbaijan is entitled to buying 100 more modern tanks from Russia. The Russians have already sold a similar number of T-90 tanks to Azerbaijan in line with $1 billion defense contracts signed in 2011. They were disclosed in May last year, sparking angry reactions from Armenian politicians, pundits and media commentators.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian on Monday commented cautiously on the tank deliveries, saying that Russia has a sovereign right to export weapons. “I can’t be happy with that but I have no right to stop it,” Ohanian told reporters. He insisted that the Russian arms sales will not change the military balance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Analysts in Yerevan were less sanguine about possible consequences of Russian-Azerbaijani military cooperation. “If that is not compensated with more arms supplies to Armenia it could disrupt the balance,” warned Sergey Minasian, the deputy director of the Caucasus Institute. He said Moscow has until now cemented the Karabakh status quo with large-scale military assistance to Yerevan.
Another analyst, Ruben Mehrabian, said Russia is not only demonstrating that it is not a true Armenian ally but also deliberately preventing a peaceful settlement by arming both parties to the conflict. “It’s time to question Russia’s role as a mediator,” he said.
Russian Tank Manufacturer ‘Clarifies’ Shipments to Azerbaijan
A Russian defense company reportedly clarified on Tuesday that it has not yet completed the delivery of 100 battle tanks to Azerbaijan stemming from a Russian-Azerbaijani contract signed in 2012, RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) reported.
The Azerbaijani news agency APA cited unnamed representatives of the state-owned Uralvagonzavod enterprise as saying that shipments of the advanced T-90 tanks began last year and are continuing “according to schedule.” They said the next batch of this military hardware will reach Azerbaijan in August.
“We are not talking about an additional order,” one of them said. “Right now we are carrying out the outstanding order.”
Konstantin Biryulin, the deputy head of a Russian government agency overseeing arms deals with foreign states, told the Itar-Tass news agency on Friday that the Russian side completed the tank order last month. He said the 2011 contract entitles Baku to buying 100 more T-90s.
According to the Uralvagonzavod source quoted by APA, the two sides are currently negotiating on the possibility of more tank sales. “At the moment Azerbaijan is Uralvagonzavod’s biggest client,” added the source.
Citing an unnamed Russian official dealing with arms exports, the Moscow daily “Kommersant” on Monday confirmed Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s August 2013 claims that the total volume of Russian-Azerbaijani defense contracts signed since 2010 is worth around $4 billion. The official said that the figure could rise to $5 billion by the end of this year.
The Russian weapons supplied to Azerbaijan include not only tanks but also sophisticated air-defense and artillery systems and attack helicopters.