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Russia: Armenian PM Pashinyan 'succumbed to Western influence'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gives a televised address to the nation in Yerevan, Armenia, in this picture released September 24, 2023. (Photo via Reuters)

The Russian foreign ministry says Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s latest remarks on distancing his country from its alliance with Moscow are aimed at shifting blame for his failures onto Moscow while submitting to Western pressure was behind the “severe” defeat in Karabakh. 

In a statement on Monday, the ministry said Pashinyan was trying to absolve himself “of responsibility for failures in domestic and foreign policy by shifting the blame to Moscow.”

The statement came a day after Pashinyan said the current foreign security systems of his country, which is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), are “ineffective” after Azerbaijan’s victory in the decades-old conflict over the disputed region.

Pashinyan also said Russia had failed Armenia by not providing more assistance to avert the crisis over the region.

The Russian foreign ministry slammed Pashinyan’s statements as “unacceptable”, noting that the defeat came as Pashinyan “succumbed to Western influence.”

Pashinyan had “shied away from working in rhythm with Russia and Azerbaijan and instead had run to the West” to resolve the Karabakh crisis, the ministry said.

Baku took full control of the breakaway region last week following a 24-hour military operation against pro-Armenian forces. Azerbaijan cited “systematic” shelling, “reconnaissance activities,” fortification of defensive positions, and “high-level of combat readiness” by Armenian-backed troops for its operation.

“Had Nikol Pashinyan agreed to a ceasefire a few weeks earlier, the defeat would have been less severe,” the Russian ministry said.

Moscow also said that Pashinyan’s remarks about transforming security alliances indicate that the premier is preparing to pivot away from Armenia’s alliance with Moscow towards the West.

“We are convinced that the Yerevan leadership is making a massive mistake by deliberately trying to destroy Armenia’s multi-faceted and centuries-old ties with Russia while making the country hostage to the geopolitical games of the West,” the Russian foreign ministry’s statement said.

The statement also refuted claims that Moscow was behind the anti-government protests in Yerevan, stressing that “the reckless approach by Nikol Pashinyan’s team” was to blame for the discontent among Armenians.

“The head of the Armenian government should be well aware that Moscow does not get involved in such things - unlike the West which is pretty adept at organizing ‘color revolutions’,” Russia cautioned Pashinyan, in reference to the revolutions in several post-Soviet republics, including Ukraine.

Armenia has been hit by protests demanding the resignation of Pashinyan after separatist groups in Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to disarm under a Russian-mediated ceasefire deal.

Karabakh, acknowledged as a part of Azerbaijan by the international community but populated by Armenians since 1992 when a separatist war broke out, has been at the center of a dispute between Baku and Yerevan for more than three decades.

Since gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, the two neighboring countries have fought two wars, in 1994 and 2020, over the mountainous territory.

In 2020, a new conflict erupted in Karabakh resulting in the loss of over 6,500 lives from both sides within a six-week period. The 44-day war concluded with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia, which led to Yerevan relinquishing control over significant portions of Azerbaijani territory that it had held for many years.

Azerbaijan's operation on September 19 to seize control of the territory following two mine which killed six people forced the separatists to lay down their arms under the terms of a ceasefire agreed the following day.

The separatists have said 200 people were killed in last week's fighting.

First day of exodus

On Tuesday, at least 13,550 of ethnic Armenians living in Karabakh arrived in Armenia on the first day of the exodus, news agencies said.

In the Karabakh capital, known as Stepanakert by Armenia and Khankendi by Azerbaijan, fuel stations were overwhelmed by panic buying.

Authorities there said at least 20 people were killed and 290 injured in a massive blaze when a fuel storage facility blew up on Monday.

Armenia's health ministry said it had sent a team of doctors to the rebel stronghold by helicopter. The Azerbaijani presidency said Baku had also sent medicine to help the wounded.

Azerbaijan turned on the electricity of Khankendi on Sunday, switching it to its own power grid as part of a "reintegration" drive.

Envoys from Baku and Yerevan were in Brussels on Tuesday to pave the way for the first meeting between their leaders since last week's offensive on October 5.

Tuesday's talks between national security advisers of the two countries and European heavyweights Germany and France would be chaired by the chief diplomatic adviser to European Council president Charles Michel.

Armenia has lately sought closer ties with the West and blames Russia, which had peacekeepers in Karabakh. Moscow denies blame and has told Pashinyan that he is making a big mistake by flirting with the United States.

Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, told Washington to stop stoking anti-Russian sentiment in Armenia.

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