Russia drew parallels between Nikol Pashinyan and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday, responding to the Armenian prime minister’s fresh criticism of Moscow voiced at the European Parliament.
Addressing the European Union’s legislative body in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Pashinyan accused Armenia’s “security allies” of using the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict to try to oust him from power. Also, he again blamed Russian peacekeepers for the mass exodus of Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population that followed Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 attack on the region.
Russia’s main state news agency, TASS, cited a “high-ranking source in Moscow” as strongly condemning Pashinyan’s speech.
“We regard Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s speech in the European Parliament on October 17 as absolutely irresponsible and provocative, especially with regard to Russia and Russian-Armenian relations,” said the unnamed source. “We see how they are trying to turn Armenia into Ukraine No. 3 — if we consider Moldova as Ukraine No. 2 — and Pashinyan is following in the footsteps of Volodymyr Zelenskiy by leaps and bounds.”
Tensions between Moscow and Yerevan already ran high prior to his speech, aggravated by the Azerbaijani takeover of Karabakh acquiesced by the Russians. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Pashinyan late last month of seeking to ruin Russian-Armenian relations and reorient his country towards the West. Earlier in September, it deplored “a series of unfriendly steps” taken by Yerevan.
Pashinyan insisted on October 10 that Armenia still has no plans to leave the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) or other Russian-led blocs. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed encouraged by these assurances on October 12.
President Vladimir Putin appeared to downplay Russia’s rift with its longtime South Caucasus ally the following day. Putin said that he and Pashinyan “remain in touch” and that he will visit Armenia again despite Yerevan’s acceptance of jurisdiction of an international court that issued an arrest warrant for him in March.
The Armenian parliament ratified the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on October 3 despite stern Russian warnings. The move was welcomed by the West but denounced as reckless by the Armenian opposition. Opposition leaders say that by setting Armenia on a collision course with Russia Pashinyan is heightening the risk of another Azerbaijani attack on Armenian territory.
Pashinyan acknowledged that risk in his speech at the European Parliament. He urged Western powers to prevent Baku from “provoking a new war in the region.”