Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Office, October 23, 2020)

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Armenia and Russia continued to trade accusations and threats this week. On April 1, responding to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s threats to pull Armenia out of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russian-led military alliance said that it is committed to defending the country’s borders recognized by its neighbors.

Pashinyan has repeatedly challenged Russia and other CSTO allies to clarify their “zone of responsibility” in Armenia while accusing them of not honoring their security commitments to Yerevan. He most recently did so at a news conference held on March 12.

“If the CSTO answers these questions and its answer corresponds to our expectations, it will mean that the problems between Armenia and the CSTO have been solved,” he said. “If not, Armenia will leave the CSTO. When? I can’t tell.”

“The phrase zone of responsibility is quite complex and it is more intended to draw attention to the situation in the republic than to obtain a substantive answer,” the Russian RBK news agency quoted an unnamed CSTO representative as saying. “Because in accordance with the 2010 agreement on the principles of interaction, which was signed by the CSTO, the zone of responsibility is the sovereign territory of the member states.”

“The CSTO zone of responsibility ends at the state border which is settled on a bilateral basis between Armenia and its neighbors,” added the official.

Armenia officially asked the other CSTO member states for support after Azerbaijan’s offensive military operations launched along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in September 2022. It has since repeatedly accused them of ignoring the request. It has declined CSTO offers to provide “military-technical assistance” and deploy a monitoring mission to the border.

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Last year, Yerevan boycotted high-level meetings, military exercises and other activities of the CSTO in what Pashinyan described in February as an effective suspension of Armenia’s membership in the alliance of six ex-Soviet states. The premier went as far as to say that the alliance is becoming a security threat to his country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov again insisted last week that the CSTO did not ignore Yerevan’s appeals. Lavrov also warned of the impending “collapse” of Russian-Armenian relations which he said is sought by the West.

In comments on March 28, Lavrov underscored heightened tensions between Russia and Armenia and accused Pashinyan’s government of ruining bilateral relations.

“I already had to comment on the current situation regarding Armenia; it of course does not inspire optimism,” he told the Moscow daily Izvestia. “Frankly, the Armenian leadership, under far-fetched pretexts, distorting the history of the last three or three and a half years, is deliberately leading things to the collapse of relations with the Russian Federation.”

Lavrov decried the Armenian leaders’ “defamation” of Russian soldiers and border guards deployed in Armenia as well as the CSTO.

He again insisted that the Russian-led military alliance did not refuse to defend Armenia and criticized Yerevan for rejecting the proposed deployment of CSTO monitors along the country’s border with Azerbaijan and opting for a similar mission by the European Union instead. It is now becoming a de facto NATO mission, having been joined by US, Canadian and Norwegian personnel, claimed Lavrov.

Pashinyan announced in late February the effective suspension of Armenia’s membership in the CSTO. He subsequently did not rule out the possibility of leaving the alliance altogether and applying for European Union membership.

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