Russia’s Deadly Silence
Evidently, it was decided to keep it silent in Kremlin, believing «everything will be resolved by itself»
Earlier spokesman for the Russian Presidential office Dmitriy Peskov stated that he cannot confirm or deny the information of the Azerbaijani military about finding the «Iskander» complex fragments in Nagorno Karabakh.
«I cannot say anything about the missile», he replied to the question of journalists of whether Putin received a report concerning Azerbaijan’s statement about a missile of «Iskander» complex with intra-Russian, not export marking, on the eve of his meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
So, Kremlin remains tight-lipped about fragments of ballistic missiles of «Iskander-М» complex discovered by ANAMA (National De-mining Agency of the Azerbaijani Republic). In the meanwhile, Russia has repeatedly insisted that no «Iskander-M» missiles have ever been delivered to Armenia.
It should be remembered that this is not about the export of «Iskander-E» with one quasi-ballistic missile with shooting range of 280 km, complex index 9К720 but about «Iskander-М» complexes with two missiles, shooting range of 500 km, complex index 9М723 in operational service of armed forces of Russia only.
According to ANAMA’s report dated March 31, 2021, during area cleanup operations of March 15, 2021 in Shusha (Geographical coordinates: 39°45’38.10»N 46°44’33.90»E и 39°45’27.80»N 46°45’25.80»E), fragments of the two missiles burst were discovered there.
Investigation revealed that the fragments belong to missiles of operative-tactical rockets of the complex «Iskander-М».
Later, on April 2, a briefing was held during which head of ANAMA operative headquarters, Col. Idris Ismailov confirmed the fact.
«A missile was launched against Shusha from «Iskander-М» complex. An index 9M723 was detected on a fragment of the missile discovered in Shusha. The fragments were discovered at a distance of 780 m from one another. One fragment was discovered in the north-eastern direction, another in the opposite. Following the last analysis we came to the conclusion that the missile was launched from «Iskander-М» complex. Search activities are underway on the area of missile impact», Ismailov noted, adding that Armenian missiles launched against Shusha had blown up.
The silent game
The same day, spokesman for the Russian Presidential office Dmitriy Peskov hurriedly declared that «missiles «Iskander» were not used in the conflict escalation in Nagorno Karabakh in autumn of 2020. «That [lack of use] was confirmed», he said.
With reference to President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Peskov said that in an interview to foreign mass media on February 26 the leader of Azerbaijan declared that Azerbaijan did not ascertain the use of «Iskander» missile complexes in Karabakh.
Next he added that he did not know if President Putin had been aware of the incident or the Russian military held information about the issue.
In the meanwhile, journalists hoped to get commentaries of the Russian Defense Ministry by close of business. However, Shoigu’s department is still silent, like the other Russian bodies concerned.
Editor-in-chief of «Echo Moskvy» radio station Aleksey Venediktov reported that Azerbaijan has raised the question of «Iskander» issue in the course of Sergey Buntman’s authorial program and talks with the Russian Foreign Ministry on April 3 in Moscow within the framework of the heads of CIS Foreign Ministries.
«Lavrov was asked about the matter but he failed to answer, and Putin instructed to hunt down the matter», he pointed out.
As for Armenia, it is as silent as the grave. Head of the General Staff Artak Davtyan declared that Armenia cannot comment on allegations of Azerbaijan about possible use of «Iskander» missile complex in Karabakh in autumn 2020, as this information cannot be made public.
Former Defense Minister of Armenia David Tonoyan declined to say if the Armenian party applied «Iskanders» during the Karabakh war. With reference to top-secret information, he digressed from journalists’ questions; true, he mentioned that in case of official investigation he was ready to report back to a closed government session.
As noted above, identification markings of 9М723 once more prove that these were not missiles for export variant of «Iskander -E» complex but for «Iskander-М» in operational service of the Russian armed forces. This is a serious offensive firepower capable of carrying nuclear weaponry, cassette ballistic-missile warhead with striking range of more than 300 km. For this reason «Iskander-М» is prohibited by international agreements and cannot be sold or given to other countries.
It should be recognised that a simplified variant of the complex might be offered for foreign clients under the name «Iskander-E» with «reduced operational range» (to 280 km) and without cassette warheads.
It has to be kept in mind that reduced operational range in the export variant might be explained as being due to the fact that export of missiles with striking range of more than 300 km is prohibited by international agreements.
In turn, Russia insists that it has not violated international agreements, and that Armenia received an export variant of the complex. However, facts are stubborn sometimes: the fragments belong exactly to «Iskander-M», not to export variant of «Iskander-E». In turn, «Iskander-M» is not subject to sale or transfer to other countries.
In so doing, Armenian and Russian propaganda resources, as counter to accusations on «Iskander-М» striking the Azerbaijani territory, are alleging that in an interview to foreign mass media on February 26 Ilham Aliyev declared that Azerbaijan had not detected the use of «Iskander» complexes in the Karabakh conflict.
«We did not see any «Iskander» launch. In reply to yesterday’s statement we once again inquired but no fact was confirmed», said President of Azerbaijan.
However, that press-conference took place on February 26 while ANAMA discovered fragments on March 15. So, there are no contradictions in the matter. Questions arise: How could the fragments of «Iskander-М» end up in Karabakh? Who carried a missile strike against environs of Shusha? Could «Iskanders-М» missiles somehoe be acquired by Armenians? And if so, how?
An article published in haqqin.az and authored by a certain Yulia Medvedeva, provided an absolute fantastic version of Armenia’s having acquired 9M723 missiles. In her words, in the South military district of Russia the Armenian diaspora created a network of illegal arm deliveries to Armenia in contravention of the system of military-technical cooperation with CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) member-state. In author’s words, a department of the military counterintelligence service of the FSS (Federal Security Service of Russia) is currently engaged in investigating the fact of Armenia’s acquisition of unrecorded «Iskander-М» and their use in Karabakh.
It would be naive to assume that Kremlin has acquiesced in providing weapons to Armenia. A question arises: how could long-nosed Russian special services, the Main Directorate of General Staff of Armed Forces and Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation miss this shady deal? Ballistic missiles are not needle in a haystack. It is impossible to purchase and export arms of this class from the country without appropriate sanctions without instructions from above.
And the most import thing: how could Armenian dealers purchasing «Iskander» missiles wholesale and retail, know launch codes of missiles?
Medvedeva’s version is a load of rubbish. Beyond any doubt, this version is not delusion-like fantasy of blogger or journalist but rather a cock-and-bull story of the Russian special services to mislead the public.
No less fanciful is a version of military expert and editor of the magazine «Arsenal Otechestva», Alexey Leonkov. He states that the point is not about a real discovery of the fragments of the Russian missile but a screenplay staged by forces «interested in provoking against Russia». In Leonkov’s words, ANAMA-presented fragments are really those of «Iskander», and the same is true of its marking. However, Turks could have taken fragments of the missile from Syria where they were used, and given them to Azerbaijan, then stage a photo-session and thus reaffirm Pashinyan’s statement that the Armenian army launched «Iskander» missiles and that they proved to be of bad quality.
To Leonkov’s thinking, the goal of this provocation (Turkey and Azerbaijan, as well as the USA and Great Britain were obviously interested in the action) was to squeeze Russia out of South Caucasus and thus render a peculiar aid to Pashinyan during the forthcoming early parliamentary election.
Another possible (additional) goal of provocateurs is to convict the Russian Defense Ministry of «lying» and concurrently discredit the Russian weapons, the author sums up.
Needless to say that the conspiracy versions of this sort are beneath criticism. Kremlin knows perfectly well where missiles of this class are usually used.
It is worth reminding that Armenia became the first foreign recipient of the Russian tactical missile complex «Iskander» on September 8, 2016. Fierce disputes broke out since: who exercises control over these complexes – Armenians or these complexes are deployed in Gyumri, and controlled by 102nd Russian military base and Armenia has no access to them?
It should be added that no information about the use of «Iskanders» by Armenians in the course of the Second Karabakh war was available. However, at the very last moment, a few hours before signing a joint ceasefire declaration between Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia, Yerevan launched «Iskanders» against a territory of Azerbaijan, according to the American The Drive.
Note that appropriate videos are spread in social networks, particularly, Twitter.
The Drive pointed out that no exact data and time of missile launch were known; however, evidence was indicative of the use of «Iskander» by the Armenian party, not tactical missile complex of the Soviet production «Tochka» (index – 9K79). A video exhibited by The Drive demonstrates a launch of two missiles exactly by «Iskander-М» complex.
Later on, Armenia reported striking a missile attack by «Iskanders» against the territory of Azerbaijan. Thus, on November 19, former head of the military control department under the Defense Ministry of Armenia and former «Defense Minister» of the so-called «Artsakh», Col. Gen. Movses Akopyan, asked by a journalist if the Armenian party had used «Iskander» missile complex, replied: “I know that there were launches but where and in what direction I shall not say».
A few months later (February 16) former President of Armenia Serj Sargsyan in an interview to Armnews TV expressed his dissatisfaction that Armenia declined from using operative-tactical complexes «Iskander» at the principal stage of war in Karabakh for fear of retaliatory strike. He stated that according to available information «Iskanders» were used in the end of the war only, and it was launched against Shusha.
In a week (February 23) Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told in an interview that Armenia used complex «Iskanders» against Azerbaijan.
The same day Movses Akopyan told during a press-conference that complex «Iskanders» was used in Karabakh.
As cited above, head of the Armenian General Staff Artak Davtyan and former Defense Minister David Tonoyan declined from evaded conversation about the use of «Iskanders» in Karabakh. The fact indirectly confirms the use of «Iskander» in the war: if it failed to be used, why should a party be concerned about concealing it?
In a word, Armenian leaders have actually admitted the use of «Iskander» in Karabakh.
A missile strike was carried out against environs of Shusha on November 9, i. e. next day after town’s liberation by armed forces of Azerbaijan (according to The Drive). Strategic importance of this populated locality on hard-to-get rocky upland cannot be emphasised enough. The question is that capture of this upland makes it possible to control over the whole of Karabakh as immense geographical territory.
All things considered, liberation of Shusha by the Azerbaijan army is none other than perspective control of Azerbaijan over areas currently «a zone of responsibility of Russian «peace-keepers». Someday their presence in the area would become senseless and they would have to leave the territory of Azerbaijan. This is to say that Baku would decidedly spin out of Moscow’s influence and Russia would lose its control over South Caucasus. In so doing, Moscow’s geopolitical claims southwards would be called in question.
Thus, Azerbaijan’s control over Shusha as strategically important point was inadmissible for Yerevan. The possibility remained to retrieve the situation through annihilating armed forces of Azerbaijan that seized Shusha.
However, land forces of Armenia failed to cope with this task. It was decided to apply tactical missiles for destruction of the Azerbaijani army. As a matter of fact, missiles with cassette re-entry body and self-aiming submunition are designed for his purpose. By the way, ANAMA photographs reveal the mentioned missiles with cassette re-entry body.
But who is responsible for the strike? Armed forces of Armenia or the Russian military base in Gyumri?
The finding of «Iskander-М» missile fragments in the environs of Shusha is notable for two possible answers:
First, in violation of international agreements, Russia handed Iskander-M missiles to Armenia which attacked armed forces of Azerbaijan. From international security standpoint, this is a very dangerous precedent. A question arises: Is there anybody else that acquired Russian tactical weapons?
Second, Russia launched «Iskander-М» missiles (no matter from Armenian or Russian territory) over Shusha environs to thus return the town under Armenian control.
Under the UN General Assembly resolution № 3314 of December 14, 1974, bombardment or weapon employment against another state or attacks on armed forces of another state are acts of aggression.
It is understood that a state trapped in acts of that nature is an accessory to the conflict. Is a party to the conflict entitled to launch peace-keeping initiatives? The response is obvious.
By the time of the paper appearance neither Foreign Affairs Ministry, nor Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation has not covered the ANAMA finding. That figures: the stalemate situation, one can neither deny, nor admit the fact…
That’s why Kremlin decided to leave the fact to silence in the hope that things will work out.
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