British researcher: "Armenia’s role in illicit arms business 'beginning to have international implications'

Baku. 12 February. REPORT.AZ/ Perhaps no other nation in post-Soviet space received greater support from Washington that Armenia, British researcher Harrold Cane writes in his book titled 'Narco Karabakh'.

The author notes that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan was effusive and full of warm platitudes when writing to Obama in 2014 but 'while holding out the hand of friendship, at the same time the Caucasus nation has been holding a grenade in the other...'

"Perhaps no other nation in post-Soviet space received greater support from Washington."

Under a number of programmes, Washington has provided more than $2 billion in humanitarian and technical assistance to Armenia, according to Bridget Brink, United States Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

"For its $2 billion, the United States believed that it was supporting an ally in post-Soviet space. Perhaps this would even counter increasing Russian influence in Yerevan. Despite this aid, when it came to the big decisions, Yerevan fell in with Moscow, the author writes reminding that in 2015, for example, following a discussion with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Sargsyan announced that his country would affiliate for trade purposes with the Eurasian Economic Union – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan – rather than the European Union.

"Armenia linked itself to Moscow’s strategic orbit," the British researcher noted.

While Moscow has consistently stepped into the breach where other arms supplying nations have held back, due to Nagorno-Karabakh, the nation has become a hub for arms shipments.

In 2005, for example, an arms sale led by one Artur Solomonyan, from Yerevan, was interrupted by United States law enforcement. Solomonyan and others were arrested amid a plot to smuggle Russian-made military weapons into the United States, including rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired ‘Stinger’ missiles, Russian-made AK-47 assault rifles and mines.

Gun running has long been a lucrative local business. One well known name in the trade locally was Jirayr Sefilyan, who imported weapons into the country and sold them on to the highest bidder. In Yerevan he won a reputation as many foreign groups’ dealer of choice, the British researcher said.

According to him, another well-known name in the business is a representative of the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist regime Samvel Babayan, who developed a tidy sideline in arms shipments via Georgia, on to Iran and beyond.

"Armenia’s role in the business of illicit arms was also beginning to have international implications. In 2018, the European Observatory of Crimes and Security reported that Spanish Police had launched a major crackdown on 'the Armenian Mafia', in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Alicante and Albacete, who were connected to arms trafficking," he said. 

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