The accord updates the 1995 pact for a 25-year lease of the base

Russia has extended the lease of a key military base in Armenia through 2044 in a decisive move to strengthen its military clout in the strategic region of the Caucasus and the Black Sea.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian signed an agreement on Friday allowing Russian forces to remain at the Soviet-era military base in Gyumri until 2044. The accord updates the 1995 pact for a 25-year lease of the base.

The Gyumri base is Russia's largest military outpost beyond its borders. It houses about 30 MiG-29 fighter jets, 240 tanks and other armour, scores of artillery guns, S-300 air defence missile systems and some 3,500 troops. The base gives Russia strategic hold over South Caucasus, a major energy transport corridor from the Caspian Sea to Europe, and helps deter Turkey from giving military support to Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

The Armenia base accord is the latest in a series of steps Russia has undertaken this year to secure its military dominance in the Caucasus and the Black Sea zone till mid- century.

In February, Russia signed a 49-year pact with Abkhazia to establish a land, air and naval base in Gudauta, on the Black Sea coast. Earlier, Russia sealed a similar deal with South Ossetia. Russia recognised Georgia's two breakaway territories after foiling a Georgian armed attack on South Ossetia in August 2008. In April Ukraine agreed to extend the Russian lease of the biggest Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol till 2042.

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