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Armenia refuses to host CSTO exercises- Armenian sources: Russia failed both in its multilateral and bilateral treaty obligations

Armenia will not host Russian-led military exercises this year, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said, directly contradicting Moscow's announcement a week earlier. Pashinyan at the same time unleashed sharp criticism of the Russian military presence in Armenia, saying it was more of a "threat" than protection for his country.

On January 1, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-led alliance, will hold a 2023 repeat of its annual flagship exercise, "Unbreakable Brotherhood," in Armenia.

This announcement came as a surprise given the rocky relationship between Armenia and Moscow over the past year, and the CSTO in particular. Many Armenians have found Russia's and the CSTO's actions weak in the face of Azerbaijan's attacks in recent months, including an unprecedented attack on Armenia in September and the ongoing de facto blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh that began in December.

At a press conference on January 10, Pashinyan addressed the issue and called the Russian plans a "misunderstanding." “I think there is a misunderstanding, since the Ministry of Defense of Armenia has already informed, in writing, the joint staff of the CSTO, that conducting exercises in Armenia in the current situation would be inappropriate,” he said. “These exercises in Armenia, at least this year, will not happen.”

Russia was in the process of "clarifying" the announcement, said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported that Peskov said this was a new announcement, that Armenia was a "close ally" of Russia and that dialogue would continue. The CSTO had received Armenia's notification and was working on plans to conduct the exercise in another country, Russian news agency TASS reported.

An Armenian source who spoke to PENTAPOSTAGMA on condition of anonymity, commenting on Yerevan's refusal to hold CSTO exercises in Armenia, pointed out that this is "no surprise as Russia failed both in its multilateral and bilateral treaty obligations towards Armenia. First of all, Russia is the mediator and co-signer of the 2020 November 9 ceasefire statement. Soon after the signature Azerbaijan has been grossly violating the statement, first moving forward and seizing territories in NK in 2020, 2021 and 2022, as well as more recently just blockading the Lachin Corridor. Russian peacekeepers, who are supposed to exclude such escalations, have been onlookers. Secondly, Armenia and Russia bilaterally as well as within the format of CSTO have an agreement of mutual defense of territorial integrity. Azerbaijan has grossly violated the territorial integrity of Armenia since September 2022 and again we see no concrete steps from Russia to alleviate or solve this matter. What was even more disturbing, in the UN Security Council, most members, unlike Russia, acknowledged the occupation of Armenian territory”.

Pashinyan has been increasingly critical of the CSTO, an organization that also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. At a summit of the organization in November, which happened to take place in Yerevan, he vetoed a statement on the recent escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan because it did not directly condemn Azerbaijan's attacks.

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