Armenian PM says depending solely on Russia for security was 'strategic mistake'

Meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow

By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) - Armenia's prime minister has said his country's policy of solely relying on Russia to guarantee its security was a strategic mistake because Moscow has been unable to deliver and is in the process of winding down its role in the wider region.

In an interview with 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 neighbouring Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Pashinyan suggested that Moscow, which has a defence pact with Armenia and a militray base there, did not regard his country as sufficiently pro-Russian and said he believed Russia was in the process of leaving the wider South Caucasus region.

Yerevan was therefore trying to diversify its security arrangements, he said, an apparent reference to its ties with the European Union and the United States and its attempts to forge closer ties with other countries in the region.

"Armenia's security architecture was 99.999% linked to Russia, including when it came to the procurement of arms and ammunition," Pashinyan told La Repubblica.

"But today we see that Russia itself is in need of weapons, arms and ammunition (for the war in Ukraine) and in this situation it's understandable that even if it wishes so, the Russian Federation cannot meet Armenia's security needs.

"This example should demonstrate to us that dependence on just one partner in security matters is a strategic mistake."

His words underscore resentment inside Armenia about what many there see as a failure by Russia to defend their interests.

There was no immediate response to Pashinyan's interview from Moscow, which has chaired talks between Yerevan and Baku in what it says is the complex search for a peace deal.

Moscow has in the past bridled at such criticism, defended its actions, and rejected the idea that it has downgraded its foreign policy priorities because of Ukraine.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised 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. Heavy fighting took place again in 2020 until Russia brokered ceasefire.

Pashinyan accused Russian peacekeepers deployed to uphold the ceasefire deal of failing to do their job.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Angus MacSwan)