Regional Destabilizer: Who are the Victims of the Lost Armenian Assault Rifles?

Jan 22 2024

The Armenian military has somehow managed to lose 17,000 assault rifles. It is not a joke, according to the Armenian Minister of Internal Affairs of Armenia Vahe Ghazaryan this amount of assault weapons is missing from the armouries. The main assault weapon of the Armenian military are Russian-produced Kalashnikov rifles – writes Sarah Miller.

It is difficult to comprehend this number – 17000. Just imagine – this is enough weapons to arm three and a half infantry brigades! The whole Armenian military is 65 thousand strong – so the missing weapons would be enough for a quarter of its personnel. If they are properly packed, it will be over 1400 pretty large and heavy boxes (of 12 rifles each), which would take more than 10 military trucks to move.

According to Ghazaryan, the weapons went missing after the so-called 44-days war at the end of 2020 – when Azerbaijan liberated most of the Armenia occupied Karabakh region. They were not lost during the war, or captured by enemy troops – the assault rifles went missing after the conflict.

Ghazaryan also noted that he is “concerned about the issue related to weapons and ammunition”, as it might have “potential consequences for regional security and stability”.  So, there is also ammunition missing, and nobody knows how much.

If the weapons were stolen by the local population, any citizens’ revolt is likely to turn into a bloody mess and collapse the state. But considering the political situation in Armenia, and recurrent mass protests that have not turned into armed insurrection, the guns are probably not in the country anymore. Hiding 17 thousand assault rifles would be difficult in a country the size of Armenia.

Where are these weapons now? They definitely did not leave Armenia through Turkish, Georgian or Azerbaijani borders. There is only one neighbouring country, which is very interested in purchasing weaponry anywhere on the planet – Iran. As the backbone supporter of various terrorist organisations, Tehran regularly supplies them with light and heavy armament.

The Russian-produced assault rifles have an added value. They are actually untraceable. Iran produces its own analogues of Kalashnikov – the KLF or KLS rifles. But they are easily identifiable by slight design differences, overall low quality, manufacture markings and the fire selector markings on the weapons. Supplying Russian manufactured weapons to Houthis, Hezbollah or HAMAS is preferable – nobody knows where they came from exactly, as the Russian markings may be found in many places.

Armenia, being today an important part of an Iranian – Russian axis, due to Yerevan's eager  assistance in circumventing sanctions, is a likely place to get such weapons.

Just imagine that “missing” from the Armenian military stockpiles since 2020 Kalashnikovs’ might have reached HAMAS, and may have been used in the October 7th massacre in Israel.

A year ago, Russian propaganda was actively pushing the narrative that arms sent to Ukraine will end up in criminal hands. The claims were that hundreds of units of firearms were sold to the different gangs in Eastern Europe. There was a big fuss in the media about that, though the evidence was pretty vague. Of course, it is totally plausible that criminals could get weapons from a war zone.

But surprisingly we are not talking about 17 thousand assault rifles, which disappeared in a country bordering Iran – the biggest known supplier of weapons to terrorists around the globe.