Armenian-Russian ties at all-time low under Pashinyan

7 October 2019 17:48 (UTC+04:00)

By Abdul Kerimkhanov

Armenia’s relations with Russia has been deteriorating since Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan took office. 

This was especially noticeable during the meeting of Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (EAEU) held in Yerevan on October 1. The meeting once again highlighted personal and political failure of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Armenia had to make very serious efforts to hold the EAEU summit it Yerevan, and also repeatedly contacted the Russian side in this regard. A few days before the summit, it was reported that Putin would arrive in Yerevan for only three hours and that he did not plan to hold any meetings. Later it became clear that a meeting with the Armenian PM would nevertheless take place.

The much-anticipated meeting between Pashinyan and Putin took place at the last minute of the EAUE summit. Putin talked with Pashinyan at the airport at the last minutes of the visit just before leaving the Armenian capital. This is despite the fact that Putin held meetings with the leaders of other states at the residence of the Armenian President, where the summit itself was held. It is possible to assume that Putin was not going to meet with Pashinyan, but changed his mind in the last minute. Most likely, this was Putin’s next message to Yerevan. Pashinyan was lucky that Putin remembered about him at least in the airport, otherwise, he would not be able to explain to his people why he was completely ignored. 

Meanwhile, the Armenian media doubted that the meeting would take place. The reasons for their skepticism was the arrest of former Armenia President Robert Kocharyan, as well as the fact that Putin arrived in Yerevan about an hour before the summit of the EAEU Heads of State and behaved quite coldly throughout the event. 

Perhaps Putin simply had very little time in Yerevan, but it’s interesting that he found time to meet with Bella Kocharyan, the spouse of Armenian ex-president Robert Kocharyan. The meeting was held at the Russian Embassy, and it would be hard to imagine a more painful slap in the face of Yerevan. 

As Armenian media informed, Putin and Kocharyan’s spouse had a long conversation. The main topic of the discussion was reportedly the arrest of the Armenian ex-president, the situation around his arrest, as well as the actions of the Armenian authorities. 

A long meeting with Kocharian’s spouse at the embassy is a formidable warning to Yerevan. By this meeting, Putin demonstrated Moscow’s attitude towards the incumbent Armenian authorities and this country as a whole. 

The only thing that the summit in Yerevan will be remembered for is the numerous selfies taken by Nikol Pashinyan.

According to the Armenian media, the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Yerevan was accompanied by “photo reports” of the heads of state in official accounts on social networks, where Pashinyan was in the lead position. 

The first selfie was with the heads of Kazakhstan, Singapore, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and the Eurasian Economic Commission.

In the evening, the head of the Armenian government displayed a selfie that already became a meme from an armored minivan with the Presidents of Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Russia.

This is all that the summit in Armenia was remembered for.

In the meantime, there is wishful thinking among some Armenian media outlets who forecast that Armenia will become a bridge for expanding the Eurasian integration space. However, what these media representatives forget is that the country, which has occupied its neighbour’s lands, has closed borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey as a result of its aggression against Azerbaijan. Moreover, the country does not have a logistics infrastructure and opportunities to carry out the function of a unifier among Eurasian counries.

It’s worth mentioning that Pashinyan had a unique opportunity to discuss at least the price of gas with Putin amid reports that Russia would increase gas tariffs for Armenia by at least 30 percent by the end of 2019.  

Armenian PM’s spokesman Vladimir Karapetyan told reporters that before leaving Yerevan, Putin discussed the issue around gas tariffs with Pashinyan, adding immediately that business entities should deal with the problem of gas tariffs. In fact, Karapetyan made it clear that no agreements were reached and the issue of gas price hike for Armenia remains open.

Meanwhile, Armenian experts do not hide their disappointment with the outcomes of the summit in Yerevan. Political scientist Gagik Hambaryan considers it is too early to talk about negotiation results between Pashinyan and Putin. The results of the meeting will sink in once the Armenian population feel the consequence of the meeting in their daily lives.

The increased gas tariffs, the problems surrounding the South Caucasus Railway (the Russian Railways company’s branch in Armenia), the unresolved driver’s license issue between Armenia and Russia are among the problems between the two countries.

The expert noted that recently the number of Armenians who renounced their Armenian citizenship and obtained Russian ones has also reached catastrophic rates. Entire family members renounce their Armenian citizenship and leave for Russia, he said.

Another expert Eric Zakaryan believes that no matter how hard the Armenian media tries to justify Putin’s late arrival in the summit and his very short meeting with Pashinyan, the summit that took place in Yerevan clearly testified to misunderstanding between the two states and this is clearly “abnormal for the Armenian-Russian relations”.

Thus, a summit in Yerevan demonstrated that the Russian government’s mistrust of the Armenian post-revolutionary authorities overshadow the historical Russian-Armenian ties.

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Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94 

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