Armenia says it will not host Russia-led exercises this year

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Tuesday that Armenia will not host Russia-led military exercises this year, signaling growing frustration with Moscow.

Pashinyan’s announcement came after the former Soviet republic’s leader criticized Moscow and the work of Russian peacekeepers in the South Caucasus, which has been plagued for decades by fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Speaking to reporters, Pashinyan said that he sees no reason why the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) should hold military exercises in Armenia this year.

Also Read: NATO and the European Union Look to a ‘Next Level’ Partnership in Countering the Russian Threat

“These exercises will not take place,” he told reporters.

“Armenia does not consider it appropriate to hold CSTO exercises in the republic this year.”

Analysts say Russia – forgotten by its long war in Ukraine – is losing influence in the South Caucasus after decades of playing the role of power broker.

Pashinyan noted that the organization refused to condemn Azerbaijan, which fought a six-week war with Armenia over control of the Armenian-majority region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020.

The conflict claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended in a Russian-brokered truce that saw Yerevan cede territory it had held for decades and Moscow send peacekeepers to Karabakh.

Turkey, a major arms supplier to Azerbaijan, has backed Baku in the conflict.

Although large-scale fighting has ended, tensions at their border remain.

In May 2021, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of violating its territorial integrity and pushing its forces into its lands.

– Close ally –

Pashinyan hinted that Russia, which Armenia considered the “first ally”, had let his country down at that time.

“Armenia expected concrete actions from its Russian and other partners in the field of security,” Pashinyan said on Tuesday, referring to the 2021 incursion.

Also read: Strikes in eastern Ukraine despite Putin’s ceasefire order

“This issue is important from the point of view of building further relations,” he added.

Headquartered in Moscow, the CSTO includes Russia and former Soviet republics such as Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. On Tuesday, the security coalition said it was looking for other sites for the exercises.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Pashinyan’s announcement “a rather new statement”.

“In any case, Armenia is our close ally,” he said.

We will continue the dialogue. Including those issues that are now very complicated.

Analysts pointed to Russia’s unwillingness to confront Turkey and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus.

Pashinyan also repeatedly accused Russian peacekeepers of failing to protect ethnic Armenians in Karabakh and called for the intervention of a multinational peacekeeping force.

Yerevan says that since mid-December Azerbaijan has been blocking a major road connecting Armenia with Karabakh, leading to food, medicine and fuel shortages. To deal with food shortages, local authorities say they plan to introduce ration stamps.

Also read: Russian ex-prisoners released after fighting in Ukraine

As part of the 2020 ceasefire, Russian peacekeepers are responsible for maintaining security across the link, referred to as the Lachin corridor.

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