Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

“Why should we trust Russian specialists?’’. The support provided by Russia to the RA MoD and military base 102 is a matter of concern

April 13, 2020

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The first group of military specialists from Russia arrived in Armenia. The members of the group are supposed to provide support in the organization of anti-epidemic measures aimed at combating coronavirus. The second group is to arrive soon.  


The agrrement on providing assistance in the frame of bilateral cooperation was made between the RA Minister of Defense Davit Tonoyan and RF Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu. The specialists have brought a mobile laboratory capable of conducting COVID-19 test, and a disinfection system. At the disposal of the Ministry of Defense, these systems will provide an opportunity to conduct tests among the staff of the RF military base 102 located in the RA and the RA armed forces.


In a conversation with us a few days ago, human rights defender Artur Sakunts raised the issue regarding the necessity to conduct tests for Russian military base 102 servicemen. Also, in a conversation with, he noted, ‘’Though it is good that the military base will be tested, there are certain concerns in regard to the Armenian Armed Forces. As a rule, in such conditions, provision of technical or organizational, material assistance presupposes not just the provision of some material, bu also development of the relevant capacity. This includes preparation of specialists so that they can show and implement the assistance supposed.  Therefore, provision of assistance is not only delivery of material, but also teaching how to use the equipment. Let’s suppose that an airplane is provided, they should also teach the capacities to fly the plane and prepare pilots. Let alone the necessity to provide spare parts and the development of the capacity to repair, along with the provision of the plane or military equipment. This is the nature of real support. When they come and conduct tests with their equipment, once again we face the fact that we do not participate in the process of testing, mastering the scientific methods of obtaining the results, hence a question arises as to how credible the results are. Why should I trust a test, in which I do not participate in any way? This means that the results of the tests might be presented according to expediency.  If they say there is no infection, a question will arise whether it is true and whether I should continue my actions according to it. And in case it is not true and there is an infection, risks enhance. If there is an infection, it is supposed that I should isolate the relevant person, make efforts and organize treatment. And if there is no infection, it is supposed that I use means envisaged for treating a real infected person and they are in vain. From this point of view, it is risky and not cooperative in nature”.


Sakunts continued, ‘’It would have been cooperative if the other side had been a participant, which would have also contributed to the formation of confidence in their actions. This one-sided approach is not acceptable, I am surprised that our people are surprised. Yes, I said that each serviceman of Russian military base 102 must be tested, especially given the fact that a new shift and new staff are coming. They should all be tested and there should be confidence that no infected serviceman enters the Russian military base, since this is full of risks and can threaten Gyumri residents’ and generally RA citizens’ health. But in case of our servicemen, I wouldn’t take this method, because I would always face the question of conducting double testing to make sure that the results are credible’’.  


The human rights defender also added that had it been French, German or American support, they would have also included the technical support, capacity development and participation, ‘’After this, they are going to return to their country with their equipment, so where is the support, then?”.


Russia also provided this kind of assistance to Italy; Based on the hints made by the Government of Italy, we understand that it was a totally ineffective intervention and just an opportunity to send representatives of special services to some EU countries that were hit hard by coronavirus. 


According to Sakunts, this is also a problem for the NSS, ‘’It is concerning that not a single action was discovered in the RA in the context of information on FSB, KGB and GRU structures and their conduct in various countries, as well as their approach, their terroristic actions, misinformation actions, collection function and actions aimed at security. In terms of this kind of active participation and one more action of presence, the concern does not eliminate, but on the contrary, it grows’’.


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