On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military invasion campaign to destroy Ukraine. The invasion, however, did not go as planned. Russia has not been able to capture any strategically important Ukrainian cities, and the Russian army suffered heavy material losses.
The Russian occupation forces retreated from Kyiv and the neighboring Chernihiv region in early April, as a result of a united front and extraordinary resistance.
On the other hand, experts on Russia warn against describing this pullback as a decisive victory for Ukraine. Although the pull-out indicates that Putin’s plans have been turned upside down, it also provides an opportunity for Putin’s aggressive war machine to regroup its forces and strike new blows to Ukraine.
Kyiv is aware of this as well, and President Volodymyr Zelensky said “Support us in whatever way you can” in one of his appeals implying that an intense battle is on the horizon. However, Kyiv is not the only country looking for allies as it prepares for the war’s worst phase. So is Moscow. Armenia, a traditional and long-standing military-political ally of Russia, is at the top of the list.
Armenia is Russia’s only ally in the South Caucasus. It is home to two Russian military bases and more than 3,000 Russian troops opposing NATO’s eastern flank.
Armenia is also involved in a number of Kremlin-led neo-imperial projects: The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), formalized in the aftermath of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, is Moscow’s trade orbit to keep its Eurasian neighbours under its dominance, while the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) attempts to balance NATO in this part of the world.
Russia also officially protects Armenia’s airspace and state borders. It’s unsurprising that a country with such close military-political ties with Moscow is among Putin’s closest allies.
Yet, Yerevan has very little room to maneuver because it remains so heavily reliant on Moscow. Russia is Armenia’s main trading partner and investor with the two countries sharing a single market by virtue of their membership in the Eurasian trade block.
The countries’ defense systems are largely integrated, with Russia serving as Armenia’s security guarantor. Its security architecture was designed by Russia and Armenian military officers are trained in Russian academies, a long-standing post-Soviet policy.
ARMENIA IS essentially Russia’s geopolitical hostage. In February, Armenia abstained from voting on a UN security resolution calling for Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine. Days later, when the UN Human Rights Council called for an urgent debate on the war, Armenia again abstained.
Armenia’s political support for Russia on the international stage is nothing new. When Russia invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, Armenia made its geopolitical alignment clear and refused to cooperate with the EU. Then-Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan was reportedly the first leader to congratulate the Kremlin on its annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
Much like North Korea, Syria and Iran, Armenia has reliably voted against UN resolutions condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine. Yerevan even established trade ties with annexed Crimea, violating Ukrainian laws.
With Russia likely to be weakened as a result of its Ukraine invasion, Armenia may face greater pressure to move closer to the West. Politically, Yerevan has already faced pressure from Moscow with both countries’ foreign ministers holding talks at the beginning of March, where the coordination of approaches in the international area was discussed.
Benyamin Poghosyan, head of the Yerevan-based Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies, is confident that the Ukraine war will accelerate the emergence of a post-unipolar world. What’s less clear is what that world will look like.
“If there is no regime change in Russia, the long-term Cold War will start between Russia and the West, with clear dividing lines,” maintains Poghosyan. “In this scenario, Armenia, as a part of the Russian zone of influence, will be on the other side of the barricade, which definitely will negatively impact Armenia’s relations with Euro-Atlantic institutions and separate states.”
Armenia has no free trade agreement with the EU, but remains firmly entrenched in the Russian ecosystem as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Armenia could thus help link high-value Russian sectors unable to operate in Moscow to the global economy. Already, dozens of Russian companies, mostly IT firms, have relocated to Yerevan.
Armenia’s economic ministry has even published a guide for Russian businesses seeking to relocate, explaining everything from how to register a business to renting an apartment to bringing pets across the border. There is a precedent for this, as Yerevan’s relationship with Russia could parallel its cooperation with Iran.
Despite extensive US sanctions from 2014, Yerevan did not curtail trade with Tehran. In 2018, the neighbors signed an interim free trade agreement with the EAEU, enabling duty-free trade and closer cooperation.
However, Armenia’s activities appear to have caught the notice of Western countries. “The secretary urged the US commitment, alongside other partners, to continue to hold Moscow and its supporters accountable for the Kremlin’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine” Blinken said to Armenia’s Prime Minister Pashinyan in a phone call.
Yet, this reminder does not appear to be sufficient and the US has recently said that it is in contact with Armenian officials to ensure that Armenia does not assist Russia in evading sanctions.
Looking ahead, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looks set to alter the regional balance of power. A dogged Ukrainian resistance plus a litany of Russian blunders and mistakes has put Moscow in a hole. A weakened Russia will almost certainly increase the risks for Armenia’s security architecture, with 90% of the country’s arms coming from Russia and its security dictated by Russia, particularly in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia’s options are limited.
In the late 2020 war, Azerbaijan regained much of the territory it had lost to Armenia in the first war between the two in the early 1990s. But, it continues to seek control over the remaining portion. If Russia were to withdraw, Armenia would likely lose its last remaining foothold. If yet another war broke out, it’s not certain that Russia would even be able to supply arms to Armenia.
Under that scenario, Moscow might force Armenia to recognize the southeastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent or Russian-controlled territories. Russia could also seek to bring Armenia into an axis with Belarus. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has already said Armenia can’t escape such a move.
Ukraine has shown how unpredictable and irrational Putin can be, particularly to his supposed brethren. As an embittered Russia emerges from the ashes of Ukraine, Armenia may find itself caught in the crossfire.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in London.
ArmInfo. Moscow's intensified activities in the South Caucasus is its response to the West's steps to isolate Russia, including in the South Caucasus, Alexander Skakov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, RF Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with ArmInfo.
"It is common knowledge that, especially after the war broke out in Ukraine, the West has spared no effort to prevent the formation of any regional cooperation formats involving Russia. And given the sactions, including diplomatic sanctions, aimed at isolating Russia Moscow needs – as never before – to intensify its policy in the Caucasus as well," he said.
In such critical conditions Moscow is more active, and the 3+3 format mentioned in the final communiqu‚ of the latest meetings between the Russian and Armenian leaders in Moscow is evidence thereof. Under the circumstances, all the regional formats – even those initiated by Turkey – are of importance for Russia if it is directly involved.
The major problem in implementing the 3+3 format is, according to Mr Skakov, Georgia's unwillingness to participate because of Russia. Tbilisi is thus "breaking the format" in the aforementioned West's interests, which will by no means prevent Georgia's leadership from showing restraint in dealing with Moscow over Ukraine.
"In any case, Russia's special relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan could well cause them to attempt to attract Georgia too to the 3+3 or to other regional cooperation formats. And the 3+3 will be much more efficient after the regional communications are unblocked, a rather complicated, but feasible process, which, beyond doubt, has pretty good prospects and is, by and large, in the interests of all the participants," Mr Skakov said.
Exhibition on Hrant Dink’s life and struggle to open in Yerevan
09:10, 5 May, 2022
YEREVAN, MAY 5, ARMENPRESS. An exhibition on Hrant Dink’s life and struggle will open May 7 until July 30 at the Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art in Yerevan.
The Hrant Dink: Here and Now exhibition is organized by the Hrant Dink Foundation on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of the editor-in-chief of Agos Newspaper Hrant Dink.
Hrant Dink was assassinated in Istanbul in front of his newspaper’s office on January 19, 2007.
The former office of Agos Newspaper, where thousands gather every year on the day of his assassination to commemorate and demand justice, opened its doors to visitors on April 23-24, 2019 as the 23.5 Hrant Dink Site of Memory.
23.5 promotes the universal values embraced by Hrant Dink such as democracy, co-existence, equality, truth, peace and justice. With its exhibits, archives and public programs, 23.5 acts as a space for remembrance, reflection, dialogue, learning and mutual understanding.
The site of memory takes its name from Hrant Dink’s article ‘23.5 April’, which was published in Agos on April 23rd, 1996.
The Hrant Dink: Here and Now exhibition is an extension of 23,5, said Talin Suzme, Turkey-Armenia Programme Coordinator at the Hrant Dink Foundation.
Hrant Dink will be the narrator and the guide telling his own story and his path of righteousness. Separate corners of the exhibition will be a focus on themes such as memory, justice and minority rights in Turkey.
Hrant Dink Foundation project coordinator Armenuhi Nikoghosyan said the exhibition will make Dink’s voice heard in different parts of the world and present his path of struggle.
“In Turkey, Hrant Dink was speaking about topics which weren’t that much acceptable then. His voice was silenced, but his family is doing everything they can to make Hrant Dink’s voice heard all over the world. Democracy, freedom of speech, justice, these are the issues that concern not only Turkey but other countries,” she said.
She added that the civil society is now under pressure in Turkey, and many NGOs are working in difficult conditions, facing various formal inspections and procedures.
The Hrant Dink Foundation has also faced problems. In 2020, the Dink family lawyer received threats, but many people stood by the foundation and only then legal processes were initiated.
11:21, 5 May, 2022
YEREVAN, MAY 5, ARMENPRESS. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tested positive for COVID-19, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a press statement.
“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken tested positive for COVID-19 this afternoon via a PCR test. The Secretary is fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus and is experiencing only mild symptoms”, Ned Price said, adding that the Secretary has not seen President Joe Biden in person for several days, and the President is not considered a close contact according to guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The Secretary will isolate at home and maintain a virtual work schedule. He looks forward to returning to the Department and resuming his full duties and travels as soon as possible”, the spokesperson said.
Recently Secretary Blinken met with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in Washington D.C., Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Japanese National Security Advisor Akiba Takeo.
16:54, 7 May, 2022
YEREVAN, MAY 7, ARMENPRESS. A miner working in the Sotk gold mine in Armenia’s Gegharkunik Province was shot and wounded by Azerbaijani military shooting on May 7, the mine’s operator GeoProMining told ARMENPRESS.
GeoProMining representative Ruzanna Grigoryan told ARMENPRESS that the shootings began in the evening of May 6 but intensified midday May 7. “The victim is the driller. He is hospitalized and is in a stable condition. The man was wounded in his left arm, in the direction of the heart, but fortunately he didn’t suffer internal organ injuries,” Grigoryan said.
The mine’s operations are now suspended and all employees were evacuated.
As of 17:00 the shootings had stopped, Grigoryan said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense of Armenia told ARMENPRESS that it would soon issue a on the incident.
17:17 – Ministry of Defense issues
17:50, 5 May, 2022
YEREVAN, 5 MAY, ARMENPRESS. The Central Bank of Armenia informs “Armenpress” that today, 5 May, USD exchange rate up by 9.86 drams to 464.49 drams. EUR exchange rate up by 13.72 drams to 492.31 drams. Russian Ruble exchange rate up by 0.41 drams to 7.02 drams. GBP exchange rate up by 13.64 drams to 582.70 drams.
The Central Bank has set the following prices for precious metals.
Gold price up by 502.36 drams to 27831.19 drams. Silver price up by 6.65 drams to 337.43 drams. Platinum price stood at 16414.1 drams.