Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, right, and President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus in 2018

Armenia Rounds on Belarus Leader

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By Astghik Bedevian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia on February 8 shrugged off Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s claims that it will have no choice but to join a Russian-led “union state” of former Soviet republics.

In a televised interview with a pro-Kremlin Russian journalist broadcast on Monday, Lukashenko predicted that Moscow would cobble together a “union of sovereign states” with common defense, national security and economic systems over the next 10 to 15 years. He said it will comprise not only Russia and Belarus but also Central Asian states, Armenia and even Ukraine.

“Armenia has nowhere [else] to go,” claimed the long-serving Belarusian strongman. ”Do you think anyone needs them?”

“They have already seen that. Nikol Vovaevich [Pashinyan] has seen that, “he added in reference to the Armenian prime minister.

Pashinyan’s government hit back at Lukashenko through the Armenian Foreign Ministry and pro-government parliamentarians.

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“We believe that the Belarusian president’s peculiar geopolitical analyzes aim to first and foremost serve his domestic political agenda and have nothing to do with Armenia and its foreign policy,” the ministry spokesman, Vahan Hunanyan, said in written comments to the press.

Lawmakers representing Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party went further, launching scathing attacks on Lukashenko on the Armenian parliament floor.

“The leader of a partner state has no right to express such thoughts about another partner state,” one of them, Vagharshak Hakobyan, said.

Another Civil Contract deputy, Hovik Aghazaryan, accused Lukashenko of “doing the Russian authorities and Russian statehood a disservice.”

Aghazaryan also said: “Before making statements, Lukashenko had better inspect the airport of [the Belarusian capital] Minsk, which looks more like a pigsty.”

Russia and Belarus signed a Union State treaty in 1999 and have been negotiating on and off since then.

Lukashenko for years resisted much closer integration between the two nations envisaged by the treaty. But the authoritarian president has grown more supportive of the project since Moscow helped him stay in power following a disputed 2020 presidential election and his ensuing crackdown on dissent which led to more Western sanctions against Belarus.

Artur Khachatryan, a lawmaker from the main opposition Hayastan alliance, said the Armenian authorities have only themselves to blame for Lukashenko’s “unacceptable” remarks. He said they have become too reliable on Russia in dealing with serious security challenges facing Armenia after the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The government deliberately lowered the degree of this country sovereignty, and of course Lukashenko and others will not hesitate to take advantage of that,” charged Khachatryan.

Lukashenko, who has a warm rapport with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, has repeatedly raised eyebrows in Yerevan in the past with pro-Azerbaijani statements on the Karabakh conflict and arms supplies to Baku. In 2018, he also questioned Armenia’s role in the Collective Security Treaty Organization after Armenian law-enforcement authorities indicted Yuri Khachaturov, the then secretary general of the Russian-led military alliance.

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