Armenian and Russian leaders meet to discuss array of pressing issues
Acting Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last night in Moscow.
Over the past few months, a number of issues have accrued that needed to be addressed, one of which is a new gas deal.
At the beginning of the meeting which was open to the media, Putin welcomed Pashinyan and said that the trade turnover between Armenia and Russia was growing:
“I think the dynamics are good and we need to preserve them. We are ready to do this, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that this level of relations is maintained not only in this area [in the economy] but also in other areas. I also mean security, our cooperation in the area of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. We’ll speak about planned cooperation in the economy within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union.”
Pashinyan responded by saying that Armenia is ready to develop relations with Russia in all areas:
“I am sure that the newly-elected Armenian parliament will also develop our parliamentary relations. We are positively disposed towards our economic relations, and we are disposed towards further integration within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union.
“I have been told … that I am one of the foreign leaders that most frequently visits the Russian Federation, or rather, I am in the top three. I’m sure, I think, that underlines the context of our special strategic relationship. I am sure that such a dynamic will remain with us, and hope that they will develop further. We are, of course, also waiting for you to make an official visit to Armenia next year. It will be very pleasant for us.”
What Putin and Pashinyan did not speak about in front of journalists
There are a number of concerns following the Putin-Pashinyan meeting.
- Recently, the Armenian media reported that Russia intends to revise prices for gas supplied to Armenia, and the new gas contract was announced as one of the topics for negotiations. Yerevan expects to receive Russian gas at lower prices, or at least at the same price as now, at $150 per 1000m3. The Russian take on the issue was not reported on before the negotiations.
- The fifth meeting between Pashinyan and Putin took place amid the matter of the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s appointment.The matter is as follows: a month ago, Armenia removed its representative Yuri Khachaturov from the post, as he was to be charged in the 1 March criminal case. This only happened in July 2018.Back in 2008, 10 people were killed while a demonstration was being dispersed. Yuri Khachaturov commanded the Yerevan garrison of the armed forces at the time, and, according to investigators, led the dispersal of the demonstrators.Yerevan expects to retain its mandate in this military alliance, which also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. However, the media reports that other members of the organization are inclined to appoint a representative of Belarus as a new secretary general.
The Russian side was outraged that the Secretary General of the organization, which operates under its auspices, was brought to criminal responsibility in Armenia. In Russia, they expected that first the leadership of Armenia would withdraw its representative from this post so as not to harm the authority of the organization.
- In Armenia, many believe that the Russian leadership is also dissatisfied with the arrest of the former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, who is accused in his homeland of ‘overthrowing constitutional order’ – that is, he also stands accused in the high-profile 1 March case.Prior to the start of the talks, the Armenian media wrote that the discontent factor is obvious, and this is evidenced by the fact that Moscow did not congratulate Nikol Pashinyan on his victory in the early parliamentary elections, when Pashinyan’s My Step bloc received more than 70 per cent of the vote on 9 December.
- In early December, another scandal erupted in connection with a Russian military base, located in the second city of Armenia, Gyumri. A woman was killed and a soldier of the Russian base is suspected of having committed the murder. Since this is not the first such case, a rally recently took place in Yerevan in front of the Russian Embassy, demanding that the military base be closed down. However, a demonstration was held immediately afterwards in support of Russia under the slogan ‘Forever with Russia’. The first demonstration did not go unnoticed by the Russian side though.
Armenia and Russia are strategic partners. Yerevan participates in all integration initiatives of Moscow, which includes the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. After the Velvet Revolution, the new authorities of Armenia declared that they were not going to come up with a new foreign policy. Russia continues to be the main trade and economic partner of Armenia.