YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan by phone February 26 as Russia continued its military assault on Ukraine.

Official Russian and Armenian sources did not mention the intensifying war in their statements on Putin’s call with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

The Kremlin said they continued to discuss “practical aspects” of implementing Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements brokered by Moscow during and after the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Those include “issues of ensuring security and stability on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,” it said without elaborating.

Pashinyan’s press office reported, for its part, that the two leaders also discussed Russian-Armenian relations as well as unspecified “issues related to activities” of Russian-led alliances of former Soviet republics.

According to a separate statement issued by the Kremlin, Putin spoke to Aliyev “in continuation” of their meeting held in Moscow on February 22 two days before Russia launched a full-scale military attack on Ukraine.

At that meeting, they signed a joint declaration on “allied cooperation” between their nations. The declaration says, among other things, that Russia and Azerbaijan will avoid “any actions directed against each other” and could consider “providing each other with military assistance.”

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Putin said after the talks that he and Aliyev also agreed to closely cooperate in implementing the Russian-brokered agreements on the opening of economic and transport links between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the demarcation of their long border. Moscow will keep helping Baku and Yerevan to settle their “border issues” and other “acute problems,” added the Russian leader.

The Russian ambassador to Armenia, Sergei Kopyrkin, likewise said on Saturday, February 26 that Moscow will use its close ties with the two South Caucasus nations to prevent fresh fighting on the border.

“And of course, it is important for us that Armenia, the Armenian people feel safe,” Kopyrkin told the Armenpress news agency. ”The guarantee for this is our allied relations and our countries’ policy to deepen and strengthen them.”

In their latest phone call, Aliyev and Putin also discussed the dramatic developments in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said earlier on Saturday that Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have offered to help organize talks between Russia and Ukraine. Although Zelenskiy welcomed the offer, hopes for an immediate move toward talks appeared dim.

Defense Minister Visit

Defense Minister Suren Papikyan reportedly reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to closer military ties with Russia and spoke of “new challenges and threats” facing the two allied countries as met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Friday.

“I can assure you that I will do my best to further develop Russian-Armenian defense cooperation,” the Russian Defense Ministry quoted him as telling Shoigu at the start of their talks.

Papikyan, who was appointed as defense minister in November, began his first visit to Russia in his current capacity on February 24, just hours after the Russian military launched a large-scale attack on Ukraine condemned by the West.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Papikyan said Moscow and Yerevan have to constantly deal with “new challenges and threats.”

“It’s obvious that all of these challenges and threats facing our states can only be overcome by acting jointly,” he said.

A statement issued by the Armenian Defense Minister said the two ministers discussed Russian-Armenian military cooperation as well as “international and regional security issues.” It said they praised Russian efforts to help “stabilize the military-political situation” in the South Caucasus.

“The discussions also touched upon the ongoing reforms and modernization of the Armenian Armed Forces,” the statement added.

Meeting with Papikyan’s predecessor Arshak Karapetian in Moscow last August, Shoigu said Moscow will continue to help Yerevan reform, rearm and modernize the Armenian army.

Papikyan met with Shoigu two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev signed in the Kremlin a joint declaration on “allied cooperation” between their nations.

The declaration says, among other things, that Russia and Azerbaijan will avoid “any actions directed against each other” and could consider “providing each other with military assistance.”

EU Visas Waived

In further news related to the war, the European Union has waived its visa requirements for Armenian citizens fleeing the intensifying fighting in Ukraine, according to Armenia’s Foreign Ministry.

The ministry announced on February 26 announced that they do not need Schengen visas to enter Ukraine’s EU neighbors — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania — from the embattled country invaded by Russia. The visa waiver is meant for those Armenians who want to return to Armenia, it said in a statement.

“Other options for evacuating them from Ukraine are also being considered,” the statement said. ”At the same time, we inform that the Republic of Armenia is ready to receive our compatriots, their family members, as well as other refugees.”

The Foreign Ministry also released emergency phone numbers of the Armenian embassy in Kyiv and consulates in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odessa and Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia.

The Armenian diplomatic missions in Ukraine continued to operate even after Russia launched the full-scale military attack on February 24. Nor did Yerevan urge Armenian citizens to leave the country.

All flights between Armenia and Ukraine were cancelled immediately after the start of the Russian invasion.

Ukraine is officially home to some 120,000 ethnic Armenians. According to leaders of the Armenian community there, their actual number is much larger and only half of them are Ukrainian citizens.

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