25 February 2021 was a bustling day for Caucasia, given attention to events happened in Armenia. At the day, including the Chief of General Staff of the Armenian Forces Onik Gasparyan, several senior commander demanded for resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The reason behind this demand is events occurred after defeat of Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh War. Pashinyan, keep military responsible for Russian made Iskander missiles were failed to operate or rather reach the target. Lastly, dismissal deputy Prime Minister Tiran Khachatryan, due to the critical statements he voiced over Pashinyan’s asseverations, become the leading reason that triggers the events. After that, Pashinyan described the demand of General staff as a “coup attempt” in the statements he made following the resignation calls directed against him. He invited his supporters to the streets. [i]
Although days have passed since the demand for resignation in Armenia, the events have not subsided yet. Opposition set up the tents in front of the Parliament in order to protest Pashinyan Administration. Prime Minister Pashinyan on the other side, signed the decision involving the dismissal of the Chief of General Staff and sent it to Armenian President Armen Sargsyan. Nevertheless, President vetoed his decision. Subsequently, Pashinyan re-conveyed his request again, remarking that crisis cannot be resolved with the decision taken. [ii] In this instance, Sargsyan does not have the right to veto this dismissal again. Therefore, the Armenian President will weather approve the decision or carry it to the Constitutional Court.
These developments have crystallized the polarization between Pashinyan supporters and opposition in Armenia. At this point, although the position of President Sargsyan is very important, problems are not seem to possible to resolve without a compromises between Prime Minister and Chief of General Staff. Because, even though President’s veto pleased the opposition, it caused disappointment for Pashinyan and his supporters.
First of all, it should be noted that; negative statements of Prime Minister of Armenia about the Iskander missiles is not a scene that Russia would ignore. Russian Ministry of Defense denied Pashinyan’s statements about the Iskander missiles. According the evaluation of Ministry, Armenia didn’t use Iskander missiles during Nagorno-Karabakh War and added, they surprised to hear statements of Pashinyan.[iii] Moreover, Armenia’s failure to respond aforementioned statement of Russian Ministry increase the doubts over the allegations raised by Pashinyan.
At the same day, Pashinyan assess the ongoing events as “coup attempt”, he made a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the call, Putin expressed his support for the preservation of order and peace in Armenia and his wishes for the resolution of ongoing process within the framework of law. [iv] Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitriy Peskov also stated that Moscow is following the events in Armenia carefully, however, Russia sees the events as Armenia’s domestic affair.[v] Likewise, Russian Foreign Ministry interpreted the developments as a matter of the domestic issue of Armenia.[vi]
Considering the statements put forward by Russia, allegations on the coup attempt evaluated as domestic issue of the Armenia. Also, Moscow expressed her desire to resolve the problems within the framework of legal practices. Yet in the background of these statements which seemed sane at first, Russia gave the message that she is not satisfied with the Yerevan Administration. Because, Moscow did not condemn coup attempt. Additionally, it is understood from the statements that Russia intends to lecture Armenia for the second time after Nagorno-Karabakh War.
As it known, Armenia did not receive expected support from Russia in Nagorno-Karabakh War. Moreover, Pashinyan did not see the support of Russia against the events he alleged as coup attempt. The reason of this situation is, Armenia turns her face to West during Pashinyan Administration. Undoubtfully, Russia cannot support such policy, it endangers Russia’s influence in Caucasia. Consequentially, Pashinyan’s priorities in foreign policy relates with coup attempt. Even though Russia didn’t clandestinely interfere “coup attempt”, it is definite that Moscow will not take Pashinyan’s power under guarantee. As a matter of fact to compare, Moscow’s support fort Lukashenko in the events took place in Belarus is still fresh in the minds.
Due to the all aforementioned reasons, Russia, although not explicitly, supports the coup attempt of the Armed Forces of Armenia and the protests of opposition. Even though coup attempt has been prevented, consensus between parties not accomplished. This led the idea of Russia’s position may be determinant in the developments that will shape the domestic policy of Armenia. Currently, Moscow is distant to Pashinyan. This situation obstructs the well management of process by Pashinyan Administration. On the other hand, it is also possible for Pashinyan to make a political maneuver in order to stay in power as well as make commitments to Moscow on certain issues. If Pashinyan guarantee to free his policies from Western influence, Moscow possibly take a different position while approaching coup attempt. Parties’ further steps that are taken in upcoming days are significant to understand the course of the events. Yet, the possibility of Pashinyan’s removal from power by early election or coup is still an existing threat.
Finally, there are many questions over the future of ceasefire that end the Nagorno-Karabakh War and Armenian occupation in the region. At this point, the most clear statement proposed by Azerbaijan President İlham Aliyev. He said, region is under rigorous monitoring and warn Armenia against any attempt to break ceasefire. Similar warning also voiced by Putin. [vii] This can be interpreted as, Armenia will not disrupt the status quo that officially agreed on 10 November 2020, at least in short term.
[i] “Пашинян назвал заявление Генштаба попыткой военного переворота (Pashinyan vocavit dicitur in Staff et conatus militaris res Generalis)”, Риа Новости, https://ria.ru/20210225/pashinyan-1598885828.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).
[ii] “Пашинян повторно направил президенту ходатайство об увольнении начальника Генштаба (Pashinyan rursus ad Moysen: Ingredere ad petitionem Praesidis Generalis dux de Staff)”, Коммерсантъ, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4710610?from=hotnews#id2019467, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).
[iii] “Минобороны России ответило на слова Пашиняна об Искандерах (In Russian Ministerio Defensionis verba responderit Pashinyan de Iskander)”, Риа Новости, https://ria.ru/20210225/armeniya-1598996739.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).
[iv] “Генштаб Армении выступил против премьера Пашиняна (Prime Minister Generalis Armeniana Staff opponitur Pashinyan)”, РБК, https://www.rbc.ru/politics/25/02/2021/60376b799a79477750d687d2, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).
[v] “Путин и Пашинян обсудили ситуацию в Армении (Putin et Pashinyan de quibus in statu Armenia)”, РБК, https://www.rbc.ru/rbcfreenews/6037cb6d9a7947191e7e23f0, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).
[vi] “В МИД России прокомментировали ситуацию в Армении (В МИД России прокомментировали ситуацию в Армении)”, РТ На Русском, https://russian.rt.com/ussr/news/836220-mid-rossiya-situaciya-armeniya, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).
[vii] “Алиев предостерег от попыток сорвать соглашение по Карабаху (Aliyev monuit contra conventionem res dirimere conatus est Karabakh)” Риа Новости, https://ria.ru/20210226/karabakh-1599084222.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).
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