Premier Pashinyan on May 22

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Russia denounced on Monday, September 4, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s fresh criticism of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh and his claims that Moscow is “unwilling or unable” to defend Armenia and may eventually leave the South Caucasus.

Highlighting unprecedented tensions between the two allied countries, a Russian official warned Yerevan against helping the West “squeeze Russia out” of the region.

In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica daily publicized by his press office over the weekend, Pashinyan declared that his government is trying to “diversify our security policy” because Armenia’s long-standing heavy reliance on Russia has proved a “strategic mistake.”

“Armenia’s security architecture, including the logic of weapons and ammunition acquisition, has been connected to Russia by 99.999 percent,” he said. “But now that Russia itself needs weapons and munitions [amid the war in Ukraine] it is obvious that in this situation the Russian Federation could not provide for Armenia’s security needs even if it wanted to.”

“The Russian Federation has been in our region, the South Caucasus, for quite a long time. But we have seen situations when the Russian Federation simply left the South Caucasus in one day, one month or one year,” he went on, apparently referring to the 1917 collapse of the Russian Empire.

“There are processes that, of course, lead one to think that the same scenario could be repeated and that one day we will simply wake up and see that Russia is not here,” added Pashinyan.

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Russia hit back at Pashinyan, with an unnamed “diplomatic source” in Moscow calling Pashinyan’s comments “unacceptable.”

“In fact, they are trying to artificially squeeze Russia out of the South Caucasus, using Yerevan as a means of achieving this goal,” the source told the official TASS news agency. ”As Armenia’s closest neighbor and friend, Russia does not intend to leave the region. However, this should be a two-way street. Armenia should also not become a weapon for the West to squeeze out Russia.”

Pashinyan also slammed the Russian peacekeeping forces for their failure to reopen the Lachin corridor, Nagorno-Karabakh’s only land link with Armenia, blocked by Azerbaijan last December. The blockade, he said, means the peacekeepers are “not fulfilling their mission” defined by the Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the 2020 war in Karabakh.

The Russian source cited by TASS rejected Pashinyan’s “baseless attacks” on the peacekeepers. He said that the Armenian premier’s controversial recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh “made the work of the Russian peacekeeping contingent as difficult as possible.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, likewise charged on August 30 that Pashinyan’s far-reaching concession to Baku paved the way for the Azerbaijani blockade and the resulting humanitarian crisis in Karabakh. Her Armenian opposite number dismissed the claim and cited a long list of Armenian grievances against Moscow.

The rift between Moscow and Yerevan has deepened over the past year, fueling speculation about a pro-Western shift in Armenia’s traditional geopolitical orientation. Some of Pashinyan’s political allies and Western-funded civic groups have welcomed such a prospect. By contrast, Armenia’s main opposition groups are seriously concerned about it, arguing that the West is not ready to give Armenia security guarantees or significant military aid.


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