YEREVAN/FEB. 8 (The Conway Bulletin) — Armenian soldiers flew into Syria to help Russia’s reconstruction effort, the only military from the former Soviet Union to support Russian forces in the region.
Acknowledging the sensitivity of their mission, the Armenian ministry of defence described the 83 soldiers as “specialists” deployed as deminers and medical personnel.
“Armenian specialists will carry out humanitarian activities related to humanitarian demining, mine awareness of the population, provision of medical assistance in Aleppo, exclusively outside the zone of combat operations,” it said in a statement.
Around 100,000 ethnic Armenians lived in Aleppo before the start of the civil war in 2011. Most have now fled, many to Armenia.
Politics, though, appears to be the driving force behind Armenia’s decision to support the Russian reconstruction effort. FSU states ducked out of a Russian request for help, fearing a backlash from the US or Turkey, but Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan was keen to win support from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the revolution that propelled him to power in May 2018.
The Armenian ministry of defence confirmed that Russian transport planes had ferried the soldiers into Syria but it declined to say for how long they would remain in Syria. Russia is allied to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and helped him defeat US-supported rebels.
A Russian statement thanked Armenia for its military support.
“This, of course, will be a significant contribution to the establishment of a normal life in Syria,” said Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister.
– This story was first published in issue 399 of the weekly Conway Bulletin, an independent newspaper for Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
copyright — The Conway Bulletin 2019