Armenia will not host Russia-led military drills this year: Prime Minister

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Armenia will not host Russian-led military exercises this year, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Tuesday, signaling growing frustration with Moscow.

Pashinyan’s announcement comes after the leader of the ex-Soviet republic criticized the work of Russian peacekeepers in the South Caucasus, which has been plagued for decades by fighting between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan.

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Speaking to reporters, Pashinyan said he saw no reason for the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to stage military drills in Armenia this year.

“These exercises will not take place,” he told reporters, adding that: “Armenia does not believe it is expedient to conduct CSTO exercises in the republic this year”.

Pashinyan noted the organization had refused to condemn Azerbaijan, which fought a six-week war with Armenia for control of the majority-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020.

The conflict claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered truce that saw Yerevan cede territories it had controlled for decades and Moscow send peacekeepers to Karabakh.

Despite the end of the large-scale fighting, tensions over their borders persist.

In May 2021, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of violating its territorial integrity and moving its forces into its territory.

“Armenia expected concrete actions from its Russian partners and other partners in the field of security,” Pashinyan said Tuesday, referring to the 2020 conflict.

“This issue is important from the point of view of building further relations,” he added.

Headquartered in Moscow, the CSTO groups Russia and the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Pashinyan has recently accused Russian forces deployed in Azerbaijan of failing to protect ethnic Armenians in Karabakh and called for a multinational peacekeeping force to step in.

Yerevan says Azerbaijan since mid-December has been blocking a key road linking Armenia with Karabakh, spurring shortages of food, medicine and fuel.

As part of the 2020 ceasefire, Russian peacekeepers are responsible for maintaining security over the link, referring to as the Lachin corridor.

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