Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Vladimir Putin of Russia praised relations between the two countries during meeting in Moscow on Thursday, Pashinyan’s first visit to the Russian capital since his “My Step” alliance won a decisive victory in snap parliamentary elections held earlier this month.
Putin praised Pashinyan’s “impressive victory” in the parliamentary poll and wished him “success in the implementation of the plans you have set before yourself and your team for the benefit of the Armenia and the Armenian people.”
Putin also said that there was a “positive dynamic” in Yerevan-Moscow relations, which he said must be preserved and again reminded his Armenian guest that Russia was the largest investor in Armenia, pledging Moscow’s readiness to continue its support to Armenia. Putin also emphasized the cooperation between Armenia and Russia in regional security and economic issues as members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union.
“We have very robust agenda. We are very happy to see you here. Welcome,” Putin told Pashinyan.
Pashinyan quipped about how he had “lost count of the number of meeting” the two leaders have had, saying that he was told upon arriving in Moscow that he was one of the foreign leaders to pay the most visits to Moscow.
“More precisely,” Pashinyan said, “I am in the top-three list. I am sure this emphasizes our unique strategic relations and I am confident this dynamic of relations will continue and I hope will further develop. Of course, we expect that you will pay an official visit to Armenia next year. We will be very happy.”
The two leaders pledged to advance ties between their countries.
Pashinyan’s meeting with Putin comes after a week of veiled warnings from Russia’s foreign ministry, which cautioned Armenia about foreign, specifically American, intervention in Armenia.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed that Moscow and Yerevan were hammering out an agreement to prevent “foreign” military presence in Armenia, referring to laboratories set up in Armenia that were donated by the United States. His deputy, Grigory Karasin later warned Armenia, alleging that the United States was exerting pressure on Yerevan, namely by “forcing” it purchase U.S.-made weapons.
Another contentious issue in recent Russian-Armenian relations was the naming of a secretary-general for the CSTO. After Armenian authorities charged the sitting CSTO leader Yuri Khachaturov with breaching the constitution in connection with the post-election unrest on March 1, 2008, he was forced to vacate his position. Armenia still has until 2020 to lead the organization; however, Belarus, the next chair of the CSTO, is insisting to install its candidate, Stanislav Zas, as the new secretary-general. Official Minsk has garnered the support of fellow CSTO member Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. A CSTO official said earlier this week that Putin also supports Zas. Moscow has not confirmed the claim.
Upon returning to Yerevan, Pashinyan took to Facebook and in a live post briefed his followers on some of the aspects of the meeting.
He said that the meeting served as an opportunity to review discussion that have taken place between he and Putin in the past eight months, explaining that on issues of regional cooperation, a discussion was had about the CSTO, during which Pashinyan said he called for “institutionalized” solutions to the impasse created in the organization.
Pashinyan also said that the resolution of the Karabakh conflict was not on the agenda of the meeting.
He reiterated the position that Russia-Armenia relations were extremely friendly, but added that Armenia must strengthen its ties with all nations that willing to work with Yerevan on advancing bi-lateral interests.