According to the official version, this measure is supposed to maintain order at the Russian military base in Armenia. The opposition, however, has a different opinion
Photo: Gevorg Ghazaryan, JAMnews
Armenians are actively discussing the possible deployment of Russian military police units in Armenia. The police units will reportedly be deployed at the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri and at the military garrison based in Yerevan.
The press service of the South Military District – an official Russian source – reported that the deployment of Russian military police in Armenia was a fait accompli. However, the Armenian Defense Ministry claims that no official document on the deployment of Russian military police units had been issued yet.
Mihran Hakobyan, a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) has just confirmed that the government has been engaged in talks on this issue.
Meanwhile, the Russian side has already announced the date that the military police will start their activities in Yerevan.
The Armenian opposition fears that the Russian military police will be deployed in Armenia before a corresponding agreement is concluded.
Experts say there are is not reason for the Russian military police to be present in Armenia. In this regard, the Russian side stressed that the military police will be acting exclusively within the framework of the Russian military base and the military garrison in Armenia.
Armenia has responded to the aforesaid by saying that none of the defense and military cooperation treaties signed between Armenia and Russia in 1995 provide for the deployment of Russian military police units in Yerevan or Gyumri.
“The Russian military police have no authority in Armenia. In other words, Russia’s military police enjoy as much power as, let’s say, the military police of Senegal. I think that the Russian Defense Ministry isn’t really interested in what is written in intergovernmental agreements,” said Daniel Ioannisyan, a coordinator at the Union of Informed Citizens NGO.
Mihran Hakobyan, an MP from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia confirmed that the aforesaid treaty had never contained a provision on the deployment of Russian military police in Armenia. The latter were formed in 2011, while the treaty was concluded in 1995, when the structure hadn’t even existed.
However, Hakobyan also said that the treaty provided for the possible conclusion of a new agreement. He didn’t rule out the revision of the entire treaty regulating the presence of the Russian military in Armenia for the sake of deployment of the military police units in the country.
“We are discussing it now, so as to figure out what status the military police should have. I think Russia needs to have a military police unit to deal with internal structures and servicemen’s conduct. It’s not up to us to go to the 102nd base to solve those issues,” said Mihran Hakobyan.
According to the official Russian source, the military police will have the following functions:
- to maintain good order and discipline at the Russian military base;
- to protect the military base facilities;
- to ensure road traffic safety.
These functions were performed previously by separate patrol police units. However, the new units will be comprised of specially trained military contract officers, sergeants and soldiers who will be armed not only with standard weapons, but also with special police equipment.
Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a spokesperson for the Armenian Defense Ministry, believes that the need for the deployment of the military police units is due to some discipline issues at the Gyumri military base.
However, the Armenian opposition believes that instead of maintaining order at the Russian base, this law-enforcement structure will become yet another lever for restricting Armenia’s sovereignty.
“If we were a country with real values respecting its own independence, our Foreign Ministry would file a note of protest to Russia … First of all, it’s a subject matter for discussions. Secondly, our country should have a relevant legal field, that is, our legislation should comply with it. Only then can they make claims for the deployment of their units.
“I’m going to find out whether there are any countries in the world with the military police of another country operating there – and if there are any, under what laws they act,” said Aram Sargsyan, Armenia’s ex-Premier and currently an MP from the Yelk opposition faction.
Stepan Grigoryan, Head of the Analytical Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation expressed his concern regarding another issue. He mentioned the large-scale hostilities on the Karabakh-Azerbaijan contact line in April 2016, saying the Russian leadership had made conclusions after the April war and that deployment of the military police in Armenia is a deliberate step:
“The context is that if Russia wants us to make serious concessions tomorrow in favor of Azerbaijan, they know they can press on our authorities and they have the appropriate levers for that, but they don’t have the leverage against ordinary citizens, against the community. So, the military police can serve as a certain lever in this regard.”