Putin-Pashinyan meeting: border tensions and speculations about Russian peacekeepers' deployment
Results of the meeting of Putin and Pashinyan in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin and acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan met in Moscow on July 7. It was reported in advance that the parties would discuss the situation in Karabakh, escalation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, as well as bilateral relations between Armenia and Russia, however, the agreements to which the leaders came as a result of the meeting remain unknown.
Nikol Pashinyan arrived in Moscow on a working visit on July 7. This is the first foreign visit of an Armenian leader after winning the parliamentary elections in Armenia on June 20.
- New incident at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border highlights Armenia’s defense shortcomings
- Nagorno-Karabakh prepares for long-term presence of Russian peacekeepers
Prior to the meeting between Putin and Pashinyan, the Armenian media wrote that the parties were going to sign a document according to which Russian peacekeepers would be deployed to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. However, on the day of the talks, the press secretary of the Russian president denied this information.
What is known about the meeting
At a meeting with Russian President Nikol Pashinyan said that recently security-related issues have been discussed “frequently and extensively because the situation in the region is not very stable”.
He stressed that the alarming situation has developed on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, and in Nagorno-Karabakh, it is more stable after the deployment of Russian peacekeepers. Although even there, as Pashinyan said, “from time to time hotbeds of concern emerge”.
The Armenian leader also touched upon the issue of returning the Armenian prisoners of war who are still held in Azerbaijan after the end of the second Karabakh war.
Speaking of good news, Nikol Pashinyan pointed to the economic sphere and the growth of exports from Armenia to Russia.
The Russian President congratulated Nikol Pashinyan on his victory in the elections. In his opinion, the elections in Armenia showed that Pashinyan has the confidence of the people, and this is the most important condition for the further development of the country. As Putin said, “complex issues can be resolved only with the people’s confidence”.
On the eve of the meeting between Putin and Pashinyan, Armenian media reported that the parties were going to sign a document according to which Russian peacekeepers would be deployed to the Sotk-Khoznavar section of the border zone.
However, the press secretary of Russian President Dmitry Peskov denied this assumption and said that the signing of any documents is not planned.
The assumption of the Armenian publications was based on the fact that on May 28, acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan himself made a similar proposal. Since May 12, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces have advanced several kilometers deep into the sovereign territory of Armenia and refuse to retreat, despite the demands of the Armenian side.
On May 27, on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, six Armenian soldiers were captured while performing engineering work. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan interpreted this as kidnapping since the military was operating on the territory of Armenia. In this regard, he stated:
“I appeal to the international community and my proposal was also sent to the leadership of Azerbaijan. We agree that very quickly the armed units of the two sides “mirror” move away from the border and return to their places of permanent deployment, and international observers from the Russian Federation or other OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs are deployed along the border”.
Russian Ambassador to Armenia Sergei Kopyrkin also spoke about the deployment of Russian border guards on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to him, there are “substantive discussions” on this issue:
“You know, Russian border guards are already in Syunik [southern region of Armenia]. Russian border guards have been posted on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to help keep the situation calm and stable”.
The ambassador also noted that the issue of expanding the presence of the Russian side in another border region, in Gegharkunik, is being discussed:
“I think that everything will be determined by the interests of Armenia’s security and ensuring stability on the border”.
The governor of Gegharkunik region Gnel Sanosyan said at a press conference on July 7 that some of the Russian military personnel that were to be deployed in the area between Armenia and Azerbaijan have already arrived in the region:
“There is a joint process under which the Russian military […] after a certain stage will be deployed along the border. The Armenian and Azerbaijani Armed Forces will be withdrawn from these areas”, he said.
Political observer Hakob Badalyan believes that Russia, in a strategic sense, has “surrendered” Armenia and the Caucasus”:
“In Russian circles, they are talking about this ‘subconsciously’, and also preparing their own society for this, because the refusal of the Caucasus will be tantamount to the refusal of the Russians from their part. This can happen if there is a justification for avoiding the collapse of Russia.
In the end, this is precisely why the idea of surrendering the Caucasus is ripening in the political strata of Russia, considering this as an opportunity to preserve the “integrity” of Russia.
The whole question is – “to whom”? […] In this situation, it is very important for Armenia not to take drastic steps and not to speed up this process in order to avoid the risk of new losses.
For example, if for a smooth and stable implementation of the EU’s program of assistance to Armenia [the EU is going to allocate more than EUR 1.5 billion to Armenia in the next 5 years for five key programs, including for the development of the Syunik region – JAMnews], Russia should be given the opportunity to place military positions in Syunik and, thus, to provide guarantees that all this is not at the expense of her interests, then this must be done.
No need to rush. If we do not neutralize the risk of Russian retaliation, we will have new losses, not new opportunities. The idea that others will come to save us from losses, I think, is inadequate. […]
By and large, so far the only practical proposal has been voiced – the intention to allocate 1.6 billion, and the smooth implementation of this project is a top priority for us – right up to ensuring the country’s security”.