RFE/RL Armenian Service – 02/16/2024


Pashinian Again Meets British Spy Chief

Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian meets Richard Moore, chief of Britain's 
foreign intelligence agency, Yerevan, December 16, 2022.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian met on Friday with the chief of Britain's foreign 
intelligence agency, Richard Moore, on the sidelines of the annual Munich 
Security Conference.
In a one-sentence statement on the meeting, Pashinian’s press office said 
nothing about the agenda or other details of their conversation in the southern 
German city.

Moore, who runs the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) also known as MI6, 
previously met with Pashinian during a surprise visit to Yerevan in December 
2022. The Armenian government said at the time that they discussed “processes 
taking place in the South Caucasus.”

The British spy chief flew to the Armenian capital four days after meeting with 
Armen Grigorian, the pro-Western secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, in 
London. Shortly after that visit, Pashinian’s government pushed through the 
parliament a bill on the creation of an Armenian foreign intelligence service.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns visited Armenia and held 
talks with Pashinian in July 2022. Few details of those talks were made public.

Russian-Armenian relations have steadily deteriorated in recent years, with 
Yerevan accusing Moscow of not honoring security commitments and saying that it 
has to “diversify” Armenia’s foreign and security policy. Azerbaijan’s recapture 
of Nagorno-Karabakh last September only added to the tensions between the two 
longtime allies. Moscow has since repeatedly accused Pashinian of “destroying” 
Russian-Armenian relations.

Serzh Sarkisian Sees More Concessions To Baku

        • Anush Mkrtchian

Armenia - Former President Serzh Sarkisian and his supporters visit the Komitas 
Pantheon in Yerevan, March 25, 2022.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian will bow to pressure from Azerbaijan and make 
more concessions to Baku, former President Serzh Sarkisian claimed on Friday.

Pashinian complained about the Azerbaijani “policy of military coercion” on 
Thursday, saying that it is aimed at clinching more Armenian territory and other 
concessions from Yerevan. He said Baku may be planning to launch a “full-scale 
war against Armenia.” The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry dismissed the claim.

Sarkisian said Pashinian’s comments were designed to prepare the ground for 
meeting Azerbaijani demands.

“As a result of that pressure, something will again be surrendered without 
[Armenia getting] anything in return,” he told reporters.

Sarkisian’s Republican Party is one of Armenia’s leading opposition groups which 
say that Pashinian’s appeasement policy cannot lead to lasting peace and would 
only encourage Baku to demand more Armenian concessions. They say the Armenian 
government has failed to rebuild the country’s armed forces since the 2020 war 
in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Sarkisian, who ruled the country from 2008-2018, charged that the government is 
now actually “suppressing” Armenian army units protecting the border with 

On Tuesday, Azerbaijani forces opened fire at one of the sections of the border, 
killing four Armenian soldiers and wounding another. Baku said that they did so 
in retaliation against the alleged wounding of an Azerbaijani serviceman by 
Armenian cross-border fire on Monday.

In an unprecedented move, the Armenian military did not deny that its troops 
deployed in the area violated the ceasefire. It pledged to investigate the 
reported incident and, if necessary, punish military personnel responsible for 

“If the Azerbaijanis attack tomorrow or the day after, I think that our soldiers 
will not necessarily have a desire to resist because they could be investigated 
and punished for that resistance,” said Sarkisian, who has also served as 
Armenia’s defense minister in the past.

Armenian Official Dismisses Russian Warning On CSTO

        • Shoghik Galstian

Armenia - Sargis Khandanian attends a session of the Armenian parliament, 
September 13, 2021.

A senior Armenian lawmaker on Friday hit back at a top Russian diplomat who 
warned that Armenia will risk losing its independence if it keeps moving away 
from Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Over the past year Yerevan has boycotted high-level meetings, military exercises 
and other activities of the Russian-le alliance of six ex-Soviet states in 
response what it sees as a lack of CSTO support for Armenia in the conflict with 

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin criticized this stance in an 
interview with the Moscow daily Izvestia published on Thursday. Galuzin urged 
the Armenian government to resume its security cooperation with Russia and other 
CSTO allies, saying that there is no viable alternative to the country’s 
continued membership in the alliance.

“It is often claimed that in the current situation the CSTO and Russia can lose 
Armenia,” he said. “I think that we should talk not about the possible losses of 
Russia or the CSTO but about the fact that the fascination with Western factors 
on the one hand and the oscillations regarding whether to leave the CSTO or not 
on the other could lead to the loss of Armenia's identity and independence.”

Sargis Khandanian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign 
relations, dismissed the warning, saying that it is the CSTO, not Armenia, that 
should make a “choice.”

“Armenia is trying to deepen its relations with its many partners,” Khandanian 
told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “We are going down the path of diversifying both 
our security and economic relations … and it is this path that will help to 
ensure Armenia's security, independence and sovereignty.”

Amid its growing estrangement from the CSTO and Russia in particular, Armenia is 
seeking closer security ties with the West. A senior NATO official praised this 
foreign policy “shift” last month.

He said Armenia and NATO are now working on a new “individually tailored 
partnership program” that will flesh out their closer partnership. The Russian 
Foreign Ministry responded by warning that closer ties with the U.S.-led 
alliance could only spell more trouble for the South Caucasus nation.

“Armenia makes decisions on its own,” said Khandanian. “We welcome the 
involvement of all parties that are ready to help Armenia become more secure and 
support its independence. Armenia also expects that no country will force it to 
make any decision.”

Critics of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s administration counter that the 
United States, NATO and the European Union are not giving Armenia any security 
guarantees or large-scale military aid.

Ex-Minister Put Under House Arrest

        • Naira Bulghadarian

Armenia - Former Economy Minister Vahan Kerobian attends a court hearing on his 
house arrest, Yerevan, .

A court in Yerevan allowed law-enforcement authorities to put former Economy 
Minister Vahan Kerobian under house arrest on Friday one day after they indicted 
him in an ongoing corruption investigation criticized by him.

Kerobian, who spent the night in custody, denied the accusations of abuse of 
power leveled against him and said he will appeal against the court’s decision 
when he spoke to journalists in the courtroom. He said he is not allowed to 
comment on details of the high-profile criminal case.

The accusations stem from a procurement tender organized by the Armenian 
Ministry of Economy last year. Another Armenian court invalidated in June the 
ministry’s decision to declare a major software company, Synergy International 
Systems, the winner of the tender. The decision followed a lawsuit filed by 
another bidder that set a much smaller price for its services.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee said late on Thursday that Kerobian and four 
other ministry officials rigged the tender in a bid to grant a $1 million 
procurement contract to Synergy “at any cost.” It said nothing about the reasons 
for the allegedly privileged treatment of the U.S.-registered company. None of 
the five indicted officials, including Kerobian’s former deputy Ani Ispirian, 
has been charged with bribery or embezzlement of public funds.

Armenia - Economy Minister Vahan Kerobian (left) and his deputy Ani Ispirian 
attend a news conference in Yerevan, January 8, 2024.

Kerobian openly defended his subordinates before resigning from his post on 
Wednesday. During a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
last week, he complained that the criminal proceedings have “paralyzed the work 
of the entire state system.”

Kerobian was formally relieved of his duties a few hours after announcing his 
resignation. In a statement, he said that he disagreed with Pashinian and wanted 
to step down on numerous occasions during his more than three-year tenure. He 
did not elaborate.

Kerobian on Friday confirmed media reports that the chief of Pashinian’s staff, 
Arayik Harutiunian, told him to resign shortly before he posted the statement on 
Facebook. He claimed that Harutiunian gave no reason for the recommendation.

“They were not happy with my work,” he said.

The ex-minister also said that he does not think the charges brought against him 
are politically motivated. Some Armenian commentators have suggested that 
Pashinian ordered this and a separate corruption probe involving another 
ministry official in hopes of boosting his falling approval ratings.

Kerobian, 47, was appointed as economy minister in November 2020 in the wake of 
Armenia’s disastrous war with Azerbaijan. He was until then the chief executive 
of a food delivery company which he had set up with his wife and a friend. He 
previously managed an Armenian supermarket chain that went bankrupt before being 
purchased and rebranded by other investors.

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