May 19, 2024

Armenia is terminating a protection arrangement with Russian border guards deployed to its main airport effective from August 1, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced in Yerevan on Tuesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the move, which was seen as a sign of decreasing Armenian reliance on Russia. Contact was continuing at all levels, Peskov said but did not provide details.

Under a bilateral agreement, Russian troops have been deployed to Zvartnots International Airport to the west of Yerevan since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, guarding a supply link to Russian troops in Armenia.

Armenia had now developed its own security capabilities and could guarantee the airport on its own, Armen Grigorian, secretary of the Armenian Security Council, said last week. Russian military transports at the airport had also declined considerably, he added.

Pashinyan said the issue should be seen as technical rather than political or geopolitical. However, relations between Armenia and its traditional patron have cooled. Yerevan is disappointed that Moscow did not offer its promised support when Azerbaijan seized territory in Nagorno-Karabakh in recent years.

Armenia, which has hostile relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, has begun to seek new security partners in the West, such as France.

Armenia is no longer an active member of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The alliance had never been able to explain what it wanted to take responsibility for in Armenia, Pashinyan said on Tuesday.

The CSTO had wanted to send troops only as neutral observers in response to an Armenian appeal for help in 2020 in the face of an attack from Azerbaijan, he said. Pashinyan did not rule out complete withdrawal from the CSTO, but did not set a date.

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