Armenia cancels military drills of Russian-led alliance | Politics News
Pashinyan is increasingly frustrated by Russia’s failure to provide free transit along a corridor linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia has refused to host military exercises from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led alliance of post-Soviet countries, in an announcement that reflects Yerevan’s rising tensions with Moscow.
Russia had announced earlier this year that Armenia will host the annual exercises of the group which consists of six countries – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
“The Armenian Minister of Defense has informed the CSTO Joint Staff that in the current situation, we consider it unreasonable to hold CSTO exercises on the territory of Armenia. At least, such exercises will not take place in Armenia this year,” Interfax news agency quoted Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as saying.
From left: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, European Council President Charles Michel and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev [File: François Walscherts/AFP]
Asked about the canceled military exercise, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would ask Yerevan to clarify its position.
“In any case, Armenia is our close ally and we will continue our dialogue, including on the most complex issues,” he told reporters.
Pashinyan’s move followed his refusal in 2022 to sign a final document from a meeting of leaders of CSTO member states in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
The tensions have their roots in Armenia’s conflicts with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two former Soviet states maintain good relations with Russia despite its occupation of Ukraine; Armenia has a Russian military base and the Kremlin wants to maintain ties with oil-rich Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies inside Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Yerevan since the end of a separatist war there in 1994. That conflict left not only Nagorno-Karabakh itself, but also large swaths of surrounding land in the hands of the Armenians.
In 44 days of heavy fighting beginning in September 2020, Azerbaijan’s military routed Armenian forces, forcing Yerevan to accept a Russian-brokered peace deal that saw a significant portion of Nagorno-Karabakh returned to Azerbaijan.
The agreement also required Armenia to hand over some of the land it held outside the separatist region.
Pashinyan has repeatedly criticized Russian peacekeepers for failing to ensure free transit along a corridor linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Lachin province, which lies between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, was the last of three areas on the edge of the region that Armenian forces surrendered in December 2020.
Russia deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers to ensure safe transit through the region and monitor the peace deal.
But travel through Lachin province has been blocked since December 12 by Azerbaijanis who identify themselves as environmental activists, who say Armenia has illegal mining sites in the region.
Armenia has called on Russian peacekeepers to unblock the road, but Moscow has adopted a backdoor approach to the dispute, which has angered the Armenian government.
“Russia’s military presence in Armenia not only fails to guarantee its security, but poses security threats to Armenia,” Pashinyan said on Tuesday.
He added that the blockade of the Lachin corridor is intended to “break the will of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh” and that Armenia will also seek support from the US and the European Union to help ease tensions with Azerbaijan.