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POWs, the economy, and vaccines discussed as Pashinyan meets Putin

8 April 2021
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Official photo.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Vladimir Putin have met to discuss issues including the economy, COVID-19, and the aftermath of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the meeting on Wednesday in Moscow, the implementation of the 9 November trilateral agreement that brought an end to the war was high on the agenda.

This was the second time the two leaders have met since the war, which has seen Russia’s presence in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh increase and transformed the nature of relations of two countries. Around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have deployed to Nagorno Karabakh and the Syunik and Vayots Dzor provinces of Armenia, in addition to the forces already stationed in Armenia

Speaking to each other in front of the cameras before the closed-door portion of the meeting, Putin called the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh ‘the most relevant problem’ and stressed the importance of ‘normalising’ the situation.

‘The presence of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh is becoming a major factor of stability and security in the region’, Pashinyan stated. 

‘I hope today to discuss with you your views on the architecture of the security system in our region, in Nagorno-Karabakh, and around it’, he added. 

Pashinyan also stressed the importance of the issue of prisoners of war that have been held by Azerbaijan since the war.

Pashinyan said the meeting was effective and said he had ‘agreed with the Russian President to carry out even more intensive work on the prisoners’.

The two leaders also discussed cooperation over Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the first doses of which Armenia received on 8 April. The Russian ambassador to Armenia earlier stated that the countries were discussing the possibility of producing Sputnik V in Armenia. 

Pashinyan also asked Putin to consider building a new nuclear power plant in Armenia to replace the ageing Metsamor plant.

Discussion of the political situation in Armenia also was on the agenda of the meeting, including upcoming parliamentary elections.

‘Only one part of the puzzle’

Benyamin Poghosyan, a political analyst and director of the Political Science Association of Armenia, said Armenia had become even more deeply tied to Russia since the war.

‘Armenia is now much more dependent on Russia than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union’, Poghosyan told OC Media.

‘This situation will be unchanged regardless of who would be in power in Armenia.’ 

‘Any new authority or power in Armenia has to take into account Russia’s interests’, Poghosyan said.

He said the Kremlin likely wanted Pashinyan to remain in power and that they believed he was not interested in making any moves towards the West.

However, he speculated that Russia would use the second president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan, who is challenging Pashinyan in the upcoming elections, as ‘leverage for Russia to keep constant pressure on Pashinyan and weaken him.’ 

‘That will prevent Pashinyan from starting any potential anti-Russian game’. 

He added that Russia’s interests in the region were not only about Armenia. 

‘Russia needs as much from the South Caucasus as possible, and Armenia is only one part of the puzzle’.

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