Yesterday at 5:15 p.m. a convoy of Russian peacekeepers, consisting of one 82A APC and three Ural trucks, moving through Agdam along the Askeran-Aghdara route was stopped for inspection at the Azerbaijani army checkpoint. The inspection revealed at least five Kalashnikov assault rifles (AKM) hidden between sleeping mats in the cargo compartment of one of the vehicles. In response to this gross violation, i.e., transporting weapons and ammunition without paperwork, the convoy was stopped and turned back.
This is not one of those cases where one can blame it on the notorious sloppiness of the Russian army. It was not canned beef, condensed milk, or buckwheat, it was combat weapons—Kalashnikov assault rifles!
Deliberately hidden weapons at that, which means that we are talking about arms smuggling here. The Soviet and later Russian armies have a history of it. Basically, wherever the Soviet and Russian Armed Forces appeared, arms smuggling began to thrive.
Most importantly, it fits exactly with the geopolitical vectors drawn by the Kremlin. Karabakh knows this better than any other place. Suffice it to recall the 366th regiment stationed in Khankendi where the commanders rented out to the Armenian separatists weapons and armored vehicles, and even the trained personnel under their command. In May 1992, during the fighting for Lachin, the supposedly elite Pskov Airborne Division was “rented out” in exactly the same way. Moreover, the Armenian nationalists began preparing for the separation of Karabakh from Azerbaijan, putting together caches with weapons and assembling groups of bearded fighters, several years before the “miatsum” rallies in Khankendi and Yerevan.
Initially, those bearded fighters were armed with hunting rifles. But then, after the infamous “Committee of Special Administration” headed by Arkady Volsky was established in Karabakh and additional troops, both “regular” and internal, were brought into Karabakh, the nationalists very quickly got their hands on army assault rifles. The murder of Colonel Blakhotin, who was responsible for getting the army property out of Karabakh, in Rostov also fits into this scheme. The officer, who knew what and in what amount was not taken out but handed over to the fighters, was too inconvenient a witness. During the 44-day war, the battered Armenian aggressors were firing at Shusha from Iskander-M, the variant that could by no means have been given to Armenia officially. The question we should be asking is: how did the Armenian soldiers reach the control panel of this operational-tactical missile system?
There is more and more evidence that the Russian peacekeeping forces are continuing these shameful “traditions”. This is a particularly sensitive issue now: contrary to the commitments, even units of the Armenian Armed Forces have not been withdrawn from Karabakh, and the peacekeepers show no intention of disarming the separatists’ illegal armed groups. And here we have serious evidence that the Russian peacekeepers are trying to supply the militants with weapons. Yes, it is difficult to smuggle an Iskander between mattresses and sleeping bags, but assault rifles must have looked like a viable option. Only it seems that they underestimated the vigilance and professionalism of Azerbaijani soldiers.
Now is the time to draw conclusions and take action. Hopefully, the command of the Russian peacekeepers will whip its personnel into shape, but if it does not happen and the smuggling of Russian weapons to Armenian terrorists continues, Baku will draw its own conclusions and take its own action!
It is quite simple: you either respect the signed agreements or you do not.