Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for a quick solution to the political crisis in Armenia which would reflect the outcome of last year’s parliamentary elections won by Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).
Putin telephoned Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian to discuss the continuing political crisis in the country.
“It was emphasized that the settlement of the crisis situation in Armenia must happen in the solely legal field, within the framework of the current constitution, and on the basis of the results of the legitimate parliamentary elections held in April 2017,” the Kremlin said in a readout of the phone call.
In that context, Putin “accentuated on the importance of the election by the parliament of the republic’s prime minister scheduled for May 1, 2018,” it added.
The two men spoke as Karapetian and the HHK faced growing pressure to hand over power to Nikol Pashinian, the organizer of ongoing nationwide protests in Armenia that have forced Sarkisian to resign as prime minister. Karapetian’s reluctance to let Pashinian become interim prime minister drew a furious reaction from the opposition leader on Wednesday.
Pashinian met with Russian diplomats in Yerevan earlier on Wednesday. Addressing thousands of supporters afterwards, he said he received assurances that Russia will not meddle in Armenian politics. He blasted “false” rumors about Russian support for Karapetian, a former Gazprom executive who lived in Russia from 2011-2016.
Putin spoke with Karapetian as Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian held talks with other Russian officials in Moscow.
An Armenian government statement said Gevorgian met with top Kremlin officials. It said they discussed, among other things, “the internal political situation in Armenia.”
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, did not confirm the information, however. “I am not aware of that,” the Interfax news agency quoted him as telling reporters. “As you know, we are in Saint Petersburg right now.”
According to the TASS news agency, Peskov reiterated that the street protests are Armenia’s “internal affair.” “We want to hope that the situation will be settled as soon as possible within the constitutional framework,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nalbandian met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “They discussed, in particular, the situation on the Line of Contact between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan,” a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told reporters. Neither Zakharova nor the Armenian Foreign Ministry gave further details of the talks.
Earlier this week, the Armenian government and the Karabakh military accused Azerbaijan of massing troops and military hardware along the Karabakh frontlines. Yerevan warned Baku against attempting exploit the political turmoil in Armenia to launch offensive military operations. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied the Armenian claims.
Responding to those claims, U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group issued a joint statement underscoring “the critical importance of the sides respecting the ceasefire at this delicate time and, in particular, keeping heavy equipment positioned in the rear of the frontlines.”