Nikol Pashinyan

Yerevan Worried About Wider Impact of Western Sanctions Against Russia

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By Astghik Bedevian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on February 25 signaled concerns over the economic impact of Western sanctions, imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, on other members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), including Armenia.

In a clear reference to fallout from Russia unprecedented military action, Pashinyan spoke of a “sharp escalation of the geopolitical situation” as he visited Kazakhstan to attend a meeting of the prime ministers of five ex-Soviet states making up the Russian-led trade bloc .

“Of course, it is obvious that sanctions actions will have a direct impact on the economic climate in the Eurasian space,” he said at their joint meeting with Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev. ”In this regard, we must discuss what operational decisions need to be made to ensure that these negative effects are minimal or, if possible, circumvent them through appropriate decisions.”

Toqaev and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin discussed the issue during their separate talks held in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan. The Kazakh presidential press service said they spoke about “joint efforts to prevent a decrease in trade volume between the two nations amid the escalation of the situation in Ukraine and the international sanctions being imposed on Russia.”

The talks between Toqaev and Mishustin were held as EU leaders agree to impose additional sanctions on Russia which they say will have “massive and severe consequences.” A day earlier, US President Joe Biden announced another round of US sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

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Armenia has not yet officially reacted to the large-scale Russian military attack launched on Thursday and strongly condemned by the West. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Yerevan regards both Russia and Ukraine as “friendly countries” and hopes that they will resolve their conflict through “diplomatic dialogue.”

Russia is not only Armenia’s closest ally but also number one trading partner. According to official statistics, Russian-Armenian trade rose by almost 21 percent, to $2.6 billion, last year.

Armenian exports to Russia were up by about 25 percent at $847 million, contributing to renewed economic growth in the South Caucasus country. They could be hit hard by an ongoing weakening of the Russian ruble.

Russia is also the main source of multimillion-dollar remittances sent home by Armenians working abroad. A weaker ruble could slash the monetary value of these cash inflows.

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