Uncertainty over Russian border guard withdrawal from Armenia
    Amid conflicting statements

    ANALYTICS  18 May 2024 - 14:47

    Matanat Nasibova

    The issue of withdrawal of Russian border guards from Armenia - as one of the turning points in the Russian-Armenian agenda of bilateral relations - has recently caused discrepancies at the level of representatives of Moscow and Yerevan. Thus, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax that on May 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreed on the withdrawal of Russian troops from a number of regions, while Yerevan asked Moscow to leave border guards on the border with Iran and Türkiye.

    "In the fall of 2020, at the request of the Armenian side, our military and border guards were stationed in a number of Armenian regions. Pashinyan said that today due to the changed conditions there is no longer such a need, so President Putin agreed, and the withdrawal of our military and border guards was agreed," Peskov said, specifying that Russian border guards would remain on the Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Iranian border precisely at the request of the Armenian side.

    As it has been reported, under the Treaty on the Status and Operating Conditions of the Border Troops of their Functioning, signed between Russia and Armenia on September 30, 1992, Russian border guards protect the country's borders with Türkiye and Iran. The Federal Security Service (FSB) Border Guard Department in Armenia includes four detachments - in Gyumri, Armavir, Artashat and Meghri, as well as a separate checkpoint at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport. The maintenance of Russian border guards in the country is provided by the governments of the two states roughly equally.

    Peskov's statement caused a mixed reaction from official Yerevan. Commenting on the issue to the media, Armenian Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan actually denied Peskov's statement that the Armenian side had asked Moscow for Russian border guards to continue guarding the Armenian-Iranian and Armenian-Turkish borders.

    "The Russian side asked us whether we want them to withdraw from the territories bordering Türkiye and Iran. We answered that we ask them to withdraw from three directions: from the Zvartnots airport, 17 border checkpoints on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and to shut down two support bases for Russian peacekeepers stationed in Sisian and Goris," Grigoryan said.

    As for the issue of Armenia's border with Iran and Türkiye, the deployment of Russian border guards there is regulated by the agreement, and the Russian side was clarified that this issue is currently not discussed.

    When asked whether Armenia had asked Russian border guards to stay on the territories bordering Türkiye and Iran, Grigoryan said that "we have not had such a request."

    Note that the Speaker of the Armenian parliament, Alen Simonyan, said in March that there was no talk of withdrawing Russian border guards from the Armenian-Turkish border, but Simonyan issued the following: "I doubt that Russian border guards can or will defend Armenia if Türkiye decides to attack it."

    "We should fix one thing: as much as Armenia needs the presence of Russian forces and border guards on its territory, Russia needs it twice as much. I ask you not to "rub it in". It is necessary to accept and reckon with the fact that Armenia is an independent state, when this realization comes, then all discussions in our relations will be easier to conduct," he said.

    We need to accept and reckon with the fact that Armenia is an independent state, when this realization comes, then all discussions in our relations will be easier to conduct," he said.

    As a rule, provocative statements of Armenian politicians addressed to Moscow never remain out of the Russian Foreign Ministry's attention. This time too, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova at the weekly briefing denied Armen Grigoryan's statements that the Russian side had allegedly offered to completely withdraw its border guards from the territory of Armenia, noting that they do not correspond to reality.

    "There is a lot of speculation about the May 8 meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Russia," Maria Zakharova said, adding that during the meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Russia at the request of the Armenian side, only the withdrawal of Russian border guards from a number of regions bordering Armenia and Azerbaijan was discussed.

    Thus, it can be concluded from the statements of Moscow officials that the Russian side, at least at this stage, does not consider it possible to completely withdraw its military contingent from the territory of Armenia and is likely to try to keep the country in the orbit of its interests and influence in the South Caucasus.

    In turn, as Vladimir Kireyev, Russian political scientist, head of the analytical department of the International Eurasian Movement, told Caliber.Az, Yerevan's reorientation towards the West is almost inevitable and it is most likely a matter of time.

    "The main reason is that Russia has not ensured the resolution of the Karabakh issue in favor of Armenia. Nevertheless, Moscow has in its arsenal economic tools of pressure on Yerevan, which it can use for the sake of its interests in the region, including in issues of fundamental importance to Russia," Kireyev said.


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