“According to incoming information, Washington and Brussels are telling Armenia to leave the CSTO, step up cooperation with NATO, reorient [military-technical cooperation] and sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan without taking into account the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians,” said Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
She claimed that this was the main purpose of this week’s visits to Armenia by Samantha Power, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Yuri Kim, a senior State Department official, and Senator Gary Peters.
In that context, Zakharova also accused the United States and the European Union of turning a blind eye to what she described as a brutal police crackdown on participants of protests organized by the Armenian opposition in a bid to oust Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. She said the “beatings and arrests of demonstrators” in Yerevan are at odds with “democratic values” championed by the West.
The protest leaders blame Pashinian for Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh which led to an ongoing exodus of the region’s ethnic Armenian population unwilling to live under Azerbaijani rule. Pashinian has put the blame on Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh.
In a weekend addressed to the nation, the Armenian premier implicitly accused Moscow of fomenting the street protests. He also stated that the military alliance with Russia is not enough to ensure Armenia’s national security.
The U.S. Statement Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, echoed that statement late on Monday, saying that Russia is “not a security partner that can be relied on.” Miller’s remark was denounced by the Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov.
“We call on Washington to refrain from extremely dangerous statements and actions that help to strengthen artificial anti-Russian sentiment in Armenia,” Antonov said on Tuesday.
Despite his strong criticism of Moscow, Pashinian has so far not signaled plans to pull Armenia out of the CSTO. Nor has he indicated any alternative geopolitical arrangements which he thinks could protect Armenia’s borders.
Zakharova expressed confidence that Russian-Armenian relations will eventually be mended, saying that most Armenians remain sympathetic to Russia.
“We shouldn’t pay attention to those who are making various types of extremist statements, casting doubt on our relations,” she told a news briefing. “This will pass. We have seen this in other countries.”