Kremlin rejects Armenian PM’s suggestion that Russia is quitting South Caucasus

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The Kremlin on Tuesday rejected a suggestion by Armenia’s prime minister that Russia had failed to protect Armenia amid its standoff with neighboring Azerbaijan, and was winding down its role in the wider region.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica published on Sunday, Nikol Pashinyan accused Russia of failing to ensure Armenia’s security in the face of what he said was aggression from Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Pashinyan also said Armenia felt Russia was pulling back from the wider South Caucasus region, which includes his country.

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“...we see that Russia, thanks to a number of steps it is taking or failing to take, is itself leaving the region. We could just can wake up one day and see that Russia is not here,” he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that Russia, which has a military base in Armenia and has sent peacekeepers to uphold a ceasefire deal, planned to continue playing an important role in stabilizing the South Caucasus and had no plans to wind down its activities there.

Pashinyan had also suggested that Moscow did not regard his country as sufficiently pro-Russian and was unable to meet all of Armenia’s security needs, even if it wanted to, because of its own requirements for the war in Ukraine.

“We cannot agree with these theses,” Peskov said.

“Russia is an absolutely integral part of this region ... Russia plays a consistent, very important role in stabilizing the situation in this region ... and we will continue to play this role.”

Nagorno-Karabakh, a source of tension between Yerevan and Baku for decades, is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but its 120,000 inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Armenians.

It broke away from Baku’s control in a war in the early 1990s, although Azerbaijan recovered control of some areas in heavy fighting in 2020, when Russia brokered a ceasefire.

Peskov said it was important for all sides to adhere to the terms of that deal, even if there had been strains and changes in the situation since.

“Russia continues to play the role of guarantor of security,” he said. “Russia is not going anywhere and is not planning to leave.”

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