Armenia has canceled planned military drills with Russia which were to be held under the countries' Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), straining relations further between the uneasy regional allies.
"These exercises will not take place," Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told a Tuesday press briefing. "Armenia does not believe it is expedient to conduct CSTO exercises in the republic this year."
It's a sign that the protracted war in Ukraine is causing Moscow to lose influence in the Southern Caucasus region, but it also follows the CSTO refusing to condemn Azerbaijan aggression related to the Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020, and other skirmishes which followed.
Armenia had consistently called on Russia to intervene on its side, but the Kremlin resisted, instead only sending peace-keeping troops to mediate what in the end was a forced Armenian handover of key disputed land and villages it lost in the 2020 war.
Pashinyan in his latest comments specifically referenced the CSTO refusing to formally condemn Azerbaijan.
It's an embarrassing blow to Russia, given its defense ministry just this month announced multiple joint exercises under the CSTO umbrella, at least one of which was supposed to be hosted in Armenia, dubbed the "Indestructible Brotherhood-2023" exercises.
Pashinyan addressed this head-on in his Tuesday comments: "Russia’s military presence in Armenia not only fails to guarantee its security, but it raises security threats for Armenia," he said.
The Associated Press reviews of past two years of tense relations as follows:
The Azerbaijani move has left Russia in a precarious position. Armenia hosts a Russian military base, and Moscow has been the country’s top ally and sponsor. But the Kremlin also has sought to maintain warm ties with oil-rich Azerbaijan. Western sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine have made Russia increasingly dependent on Azerbaijan’s main ally, Turkey.
With its attention focused on the fighting in Ukraine, Russia has taken a wait-and-see attitude on the Lachin corridor blockade, angering Armenia.
Previously Armenian officials had claim that Moscow was pressuring the country to become a close ally nation of the Russia-Belarus 'Union State' - something which Russia has denied.
Armenia lost significant historical territory as a result of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war...
The Kremlin responded to Armenia's cancelation of joint drills by saying, "In any case, Armenia is our close ally, and we will continue our dialogue, including the most complex issues," according to a statement by Dmitry Peskov.