Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday swiftly congratulated Nikol Pashinian on becoming Armenia’s prime minister and said he expects Russian-Armenian ties to grow even closer.
“I expect that your work as the head of government will contribute to further strengthening the friendly, allied relations between our countries, our partnership as part of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization,” Putin said in a congratulatory message to Pashinian cited by the Kremlin.
Russia has closely watched the political turmoil in Armenia, its main regional ally, resulting from former President Serzh Sarkisian’s attempt to extend his decade-long rule. Sarkisian stepped down as prime minister on April 23 after ten days of massive anti-government protests led by Pashinian. The latter was chosen as prime minister by the Armenian parliament just two hours before receiving the letter from Putin.
Putin telephoned Armenia’s President Armen Sarkissian and acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian in the immediate aftermath of Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. He and other Russian officials have been careful not to publicly take sides in the Armenian standoff.
“We hope that in any case the allied, warm and constructive Russian-Armenian relations will remain a constant for both the foreign policy of our country and the foreign policy of Yerevan,” Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said late last week.
Pashinian has repeatedly stated that he will not pull Armenia out of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). He told visiting Russian parliamentarians on April 29 that Russian-Armenian ties will only deepen as a result of regime change in Yerevan.
Pashinian has previously harshly criticized Armenia’s membership in both Russian-led blocs. Lawmakers from Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) pointed to this fact when they thwarted his bid to become prime minister on May 1. They repeatedly challenged him to explain why he is now making different statements on the subject.
“We now have new political realities and must reckon with them,” responded Pashinian. A “drastic” change in Armenia foreign policy would only hurt the country, he said.
Pashinian reaffirmed his commitment to “strategic allied relations with Russia” when he again addressed fellow lawmakers just before Tuesday’s parliament vote.