Several hundred protesters have gathered on Yerevan’s Freedom Square to mark the beginning of a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in the city.
The meeting of the Russia-led alliance saw leaders of member states, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, arrive to Armenia.
Protesters demanded that Armenia leave the organisation over its failure to aid Armenia during fighting with Azerbaijan.
The CSTO’s failure to intervene, or even to place the blame on Azerbaijan, has led to widespread disillusionment with the organisation in Armenia, including pointed criticism from the Armenian authorities.
Another protest by the National Democratic Pole, previously known as Sasna Tsrer, was held in Yerevan the previous evening.
Daniel Ioannisyan, the project coordinator for the Union of Informed Citizens, a prominent Armenian NGO, spoke at Wednesday’s protest.
He said that Armenia had maintained close relations with Russia, including joining the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, in order to maintain ‘security guarantees’ from Russia and the CSTO. ‘We received not security but political support to Azerbaijan [by some of the member states]’, he said.
‘Separate’ discussions on security issues on the Armenian border are set to be held by foreign ministers and heads of state during the summit.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said that hosting the summit was particularly important for Armenia since it was the first meeting since the September fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan criticised the organisation as the summit was underway on Wednesday, stating that Armenia had been ‘subjected to violence’ from Azerbaijan at least three times during the past two years.
‘Actually, until now, the member states of the organisation have not managed to make a decision regarding the CSTO response to Azerbaijan’s aggression. These facts cause great damage to the CSTO’s image, both inside our country and outside its borders’, Pashinyan stated.
‘In my estimation, this was the biggest failure of Armenia as a CSTO presiding country.’
The two-day war on 13–14 September left over 200 dead in Armenia as well as at least 100 from Azerbaijan. However, despite several Western countries explicitly condemning Azerbaijan for making an incursion into Armenia, Armenia’s security allies in the CSTO defined the incident as ‘border clashes’.