Russian prime minister has defended the sale of weaponry to both hostile neighboring nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan, whose forces have faced off in recent border clashes in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Speaking to Russian state television on Saturday following a tour of Armenian and Azeri capitals, Dmitry Medvedev argued if Moscow halted its sale of arms to its southern neighbors, both nations would merely reach out to other suppliers.
"They would buy weapons in other countries, and the degree of their deadliness wouldn't change," he said. "But at the same time, this could to a certain degree destroy the balance" of forces that exists in the South Caucasus region.
Russian arms sales to energy-rich Azerbaijan have enraged many in Armenia, which hosts a Russian military base and has close security and economic ties with the Kremlin.
The parallel arms sales, however, reflect Russia's intent to maintain its influence in the strategic region, a major conduit for energy resources from the Caspian Sea to the West.
Earlier this month, Azerbaijani and Armenian troops used artillery, tanks and other armaments on a scale not seen since a separatist war concluded in 1994.
The war left Karabakh, officially part of Azerbaijan, under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenia’s military.
According to reports, nearly 75 servicemen from both sides along with a number of civilians were killed in the latest skirmishes between the hostile neighbors.
A Russia-brokered ceasefire went into effect on Tuesday, but both sides accuse the other of violating it daily.
As the The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group held a meeting in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Saturday, hundreds of protesters rallied on a central square to censure the lack of progress by the negotiators in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks, which have dragged on since 1994 with no apparent results.