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Interesting Exercise

Fikret Ertan

It is a known fact that relations between Armenia and Russia are very strong and close.

Military relations between these two countries are so strong that they have been conducting planned military exercises just beyond our borders since the past ten years. We have been informing our readers about these exercises in this column. Finally, we handled the last one of these exercises in this column a month ago today.

Today, we will discuss a new development in the Armenian and Russian relations. This new and interesting development regards the police. According to recent news, Armenian and Russian special police forces exercised new plans and techniques on how to struggle with demonstrators or protestors and how to disperse and suppress them during a series of military exercises that began on September 24 and ended on October 12.

Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, Armenian police chief Hayk Harutinian and some other senior security officials observed and directed these important exercises that were held in Krasnodar, the prominent Russian city in north Caucasus. A total of 1,500 police officers from both countries participated in the exercises. The last exercise resulted in the arrest of about 50 demonstrators, who seized a government building and demanded their salaries to be paid immediately and wanted related authorities to resign. The special police forces organized a round up to the building and arrested the demonstrators.

According to the Armenian media, methods implemented during the former Soviet era, such as violent techniques to disperse the crowd and the use of arms were also tried during these exercises. Statements made after the exercises indicate parties were satisfied with the results and even Nurgaliyev said Russian and Armenian special police forces were ready to perform the task they were ascribed.

These exercises obviously show both Russia and Armenia have derived different results from government changes in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan following mass demonstrations and they have been determinant to be ready and guarded against any similar demonstrations that might occur in their territories. Armenia seems especially sensitive and concerned about such future demonstrations. Indeed, Armenia had been shaken by opponent protests that lasted for several months last year. But, it was finally dispersed, as everyone knows, with the use of force by the Kocharian government. Moreover, it appears Armenia is already trying to take precautions for possible opponent demonstrations that may occur due to a constitutional referendum that will be held on November 27. It is already apparent that the so-called referendum will stir Armenia once again. The opposition in Armenia already expresses they will make use of this referendum to overthrow the Kocharian government and calls people to vote “no”. In this respect, this referendum should be mentioned today and that is why I am writing about it.

The Armenian and Russian police exercises that we have mentioned today have the above connections with Armenia’s political agenda. Looking to neighbor Armenia only from the perspective of the 1915 events is never sufficient to apprehend this country and its people. Rather we need to learn more things about this country, watch it more closely from every perspective, learn and study its history and make judgments based only on knowledge and observation. That is what we aim for and try to accomplish.

October 20, 2005

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