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Russia to Remove Peacekeeping Troops from Armenia as Relations Deteriorate


Yerevan is distancing itself from Moscow’s CSTO, a six-nation military alliance.

Russia has agreed to withdraw its peacekeeping forces and border guards from Armenian territory, as announced by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

This decision comes amidst increasing political tensions between Moscow and Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

Dmitry Peskov stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reached this agreement during a meeting on May 8 in Moscow.

He explained, “At Armenia’s request in 2020, our military and border guards were deployed to various Armenian regions. However, Mr. Pashinyan has now indicated that their presence is no longer necessary, leading President Putin to agree to their withdrawal.”

Mr. Peskov also mentioned that Russian border guards will continue to be stationed along Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Iran.

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A senior Armenian official cited by Russia’s Sputnik news agency confirmed that the two leaders agreed on the departure of Russia from five regions in Armenia.

The timeline for the departure of the Russian forces remains uncertain.

Reports suggest that Armenia has requested that Russian border guards evacuate from Yerevan’s international airport by the end of July.

This decision follows the recent withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region after a four-year mission.

The withdrawal, involving around 2,000 troops, was guided by an agreement between Moscow and Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

“The peacekeepers have completed their mission,” stated Viktor Bondarev, deputy head of Russia’s parliamentary security committee, in mid-April.

An Azerbaijani military helicopter flies during the fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh near the city of Terter, Azerbaijan, on Oct. 23, 2020. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)
An Azerbaijani military helicopter flies during the fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh near the city of Terter, Azerbaijan, on Oct. 23, 2020. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Regional Flashpoint

Azerbaijan has long been considered Armenia’s main adversary in the ethnically diverse South Caucasus region.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the two countries have engaged in two major wars and numerous conflicts over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In 1994, ethnic Armenian separatists, with the support of Armenia’s military, took control of the region that is recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan.

In 2020, a six-week war between the two nations resulted in Azerbaijan gaining control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The conflict ended with a ceasefire brokered by Moscow, allowing Russia to deploy approximately 2,000 troops in the region.

In September 2023, Azerbaijan launched a 24-hour offensive into Nagorno-Karabakh to disarm ethnic Armenian separatists and establish full control over the region.

This offensive, which led to another ceasefire mediated by Moscow, caused thousands of ethnic Armenians from the region to flee to nearby Armenia.

Since then, Mr. Pashinyan has criticized Russia for not preventing Baku’s offensive, despite Armenia’s membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

The CSTO is a security alliance led by Moscow and includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Although Azerbaijan is not a member of the CSTO, it maintains close ties with Russia, which has been actively seeking a lasting peace agreement between the two longstanding regional foes.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Yerevan, Armenia, Nov. 23, 2022. (Hayk Baghdasaryan/Photolure via Reuters)
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Yerevan, Armenia, Nov. 23, 2022. (Hayk Baghdasaryan/Photolure via Reuters)

Yerevan Shuns Alliance

Following Azerbaijan’s offensive, Mr. Pashinyan has expressed doubts about Armenia’s continued involvement in the CSTO.

In February, he announced the suspension of relations with the Moscow-led alliance.

Speaking to Western media, Mr. Pashinyan emphasized that Russia’s failure to prevent the offensive led them to the decision to diversify security relationships.

In March, Russia’s foreign ministry raised concerns about the leadership’s ultimatums and insulting statements from Armenia.

Ararat Mirziyan, Armenia’s foreign minister, recently referred to the CSTO as dysfunctional in an interview with al-Jazeera.

He stated, “The CSTO is a military and political bloc tasked with defending its members’ borders. The lack of a proper response to the offensive has made the Armenian public question its worth.”

In a move likely to upset Moscow, Yerevan announced through a spokesperson for the foreign ministry that it would no longer contribute to financing CSTO activities.

On May 8, the spokeswoman, Ani Badalyan, stated, “Armenia will not be part of the resolution on the 2024 budget of the CSTO or participate in financing the organization’s activities as outlined in this resolution.”

The following day, Kremlin spokesman Mr. Peskov acknowledged that there are persistent issues in the Russia-Armenia relationship.

He commented, “However, open communication between two countries with complex relations necessitates more frequent meetings to address issues as they arise.”

Earlier this week, Mr. Pashinyan met with Mr. Putin in Moscow during a high-level summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Established by Russia in 2014, the EAEU is an economic union comprising five former Soviet Eurasian states, including Armenia.

According to Russia’s acting Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Overchuk, the contentious topic of Armenia’s CSTO membership was not discussed at the summit.

“The CSTO is outside the scope of the EAEU, which solely deals with economic matters,” explained Mr. Overchuk to reporters.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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