Armenia seeks to replace Russia’s radar in Azerbaijan
YEREVAN / BAKU
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) shakes hands with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian during their meeting in Yerevan on April 2. AFP photoArmenia seeks to host a Russian radar in order to benefit from a dispute between Moscow and Baku over the Gabala missile defense radar system.
“If Russia fails to agree with Azerbaijan on the lease of Gabala, Armenia is ready to provide a site on its territory for construction of the radar,” Russian daily Kommersant quoted Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan as saying on April 4, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.
“There may even be advantages, because Armenia is a mountainous country. Coverage can be broader,” Sargsyan said. Russia has been in talks with Azerbaijan to extend the lease of the Soviet-era radar, which it has been operating in line with a 2002 deal. The current agreement is due to expire in December 2012.
The daily reported in late February that Azerbaijan had demanded Russia pay $300 million instead of the previously agreed $7 million for the lease, which Russia is seeking to extend until 2025.
Sources in the Russian Defense Ministry were quoted as saying the price demanded by Baku was “unreasonably high.” The radar station located in northwestern Azerbaijan was built in Soviet times as one of the most important elements of a missile defense system of the Soviet republic.
After Azerbaijan gained independence the radar station became the country’s property and Russia continued to use it.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the status and principles of the lease and use of the system during his Baku visit, with no apparent resolution. Following the results of talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, Lavrov said negotiations on this issue needed to be intensified within the working group set up by the two countries’ governments.
The deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, Alexander Khramchikhin, has said the end of the Gabala radar lease will do no “real damage” to Russia’s defense capabilities because another radar, constructed in the southern Russian town of Armavir, would cover the area of the Gabala radar.
The Voronezh-class radar in Armavir in the Black Sea area is currently operating in test mode and is a serious breakthrough when compared to the previous generation Dnepr and Daryal class radars, to which the Gabala radar belongs.
MILITANTS KILLED IN CAUCASUS
MOSCOW – The Associated Press
Four suspected militants have been killed in Russia’s restive region of Kabardino-Balkariya in North Caucasus. Interior Ministry spokesman in the region Oleg Gereyev said yesterday that three of the four men were on the wanted list for “grave crimes.” Police say the fourth man was responsible for procurement of ammunition and food for the militants. The men were killed in a special operation outside the city of Nalchik late April 4 night after they had holed up in a house. One policeman was wounded.