The Kremlin has dismissed a claim by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan that Russia is failing to protect Armenia from Azerbaijan’s aggression and is withdrawing from the South Caucasus region.
The Kremlin said that Russia is an integral part of the region and will continue to play a key role in ensuring security and stability.
Pashinyan made the controversial statement in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, published on Sunday. He accused Russia of not fulfilling its obligations as a security guarantor for Armenia, especially in relation to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated by ethnic Armenians. He also said that Russia was reducing its presence and influence in the South Caucasus, which includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected Pashinyan’s claim on Tuesday, saying that Russia is not planning to leave the region and will continue to uphold the ceasefire deal that it brokered between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020, after a six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh. He also said that Russia has a military base in Armenia and has deployed peacekeepers to the conflict zone.
“Russia is an absolutely integral part of this region … Russia plays a consistent, very important role in stabilizing the situation in this region … and we will continue to play this role,” Peskov said.
He also disagreed with Pashinyan’s suggestion that Russia was unable to meet all of Armenia’s security needs, even if it wanted to, because of its own requirements for the war in Ukraine.
“We cannot agree with these theses,” Peskov said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also criticized Pashinyan’s remarks, calling them “public rhetoric verging on rudeness” and urging him to take responsibility for his own actions instead of blaming others.
She also said that Moscow wanted humanitarian aid to reach Nagorno-Karabakh unhindered and that it was working with both sides to resolve the remaining issues.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been a source of tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan for decades. It broke away from Baku’s control in a war in the early 1990s, but Azerbaijan regained some of the territory in the 2020 war, which killed thousands of people and displaced tens of thousands more. The ceasefire deal, which was signed under Russian mediation, ended the hostilities but left many issues unresolved, such as the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the fate of the Armenian prisoners of war.
Pashinyan’s statement has sparked controversy not only in Russia but also in Armenia, where he faces criticism from the opposition and public discontent over his handling of the war and its aftermath. He has also faced pressure from Azerbaijan, which has accused him of violating the ceasefire deal and provoking new tensions.
Pashinyan’s claim also comes at a time when Russia is trying to assert its role as a regional power and a mediator in various conflicts, such as those in Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan. Russia’s involvement in the South Caucasus is seen as part of its strategic interests and its rivalry with other actors, such as Turkey, Iran, and the West.