Putin flies to Yerevan for CSTO summit

YEREVAN/NOV. 23 2022 (The Bulletin)  — Vladimir Putin flew to the Armenian capital to try to assert himself over the Kremlin-led CSTO security group that has been accused of being impotent.

But instead of imposing his authority, Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan openly criticised the CSTO, highlighting how much power Mr Putin has lost in the former Soviet states since he ordered an invasion of Ukraine in February.

Mr Pashinyan blamed a distracted Kremlin for not stepping in to stop Azerbaijani attacks in September which killed 300 soldiers. Under a 2020 peace deal that ended a war over Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia keeps 2,000 soldiers stationed along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border.

“It is depressing that Armenia’s membership in the CSTO did not deter Azerbaijan from aggressive actions,” Mr Pashinyan said.

The CSTO has only deployed once since it was formed in the early 1990s. This was to Kazakhstan in January after protests threatened to topple the government. 

Armenia was hosting the CSTO summit because it holds the one-year rotating chair of the group. The trip was Mr Putin’s first trip to the South Caucasus since the start of the war. The Kremlin usually takes the lead in the region for imposing peace but Azerbaijan and Armenia have turned to the US and the EU to mediate a deal.

Onlookers said that it was a grumpy CSTO summit. Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are also CSTO members

Mr Pashinyan greeted Mr Putin warmly enough when he disembarked from his plane but the body language changed through the day. Mr Pashinyan refused to sign a joint declaration and at the end of the summit appeared to distance himself from Mr Putin at a photo shoot.


— This story was published in issue 530 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on Dec. 4 2022

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2022

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