Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Wednesday for talks that focused on bilateral ties and the implementation of a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Putin emphasized the “strategic character” of Russia’s relationship with Armenia in his opening remarks at the meeting held in the Kremlin. He also noted the “solid” volume of Russian-Armenian trade, expressing confidence that it will grow again after shrinking last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Putin went on mention the “post-war situation” in the Karabakh conflict zone and, in particular, renewed transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan envisaged by the ceasefire agreement which he brokered in November.
He said the reopening of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for commercial traffic will give Armenia “new opportunities for the country’s development.” “In my view, this is an extremely important thing,” he told Pashinian.
Pashinian complained, for his part, that Azerbaijan is continuing to hold many Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives in breach of the truce accord. “I am very glad that we have no differences regarding how to resolve this problem,” he said.
Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev failed to reach an agreement on the prisoner release during their trilateral meeting with Putin held in Moscow on January 11. They only agreed to set up a Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani working group tasked with working out practical modalities of restoring transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The group co-headed by deputy prime ministers of the three states has held several meetings since January 30. Its Russian co-chair, Alexei Overchuk, visited Baku and Yerevan last week.
No concrete agreements were announced after Putin’s and Pashinian latest talks.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late last week that Armenia’s forthcoming snap parliamentary elections will also be on the meeting’s agenda.
Pashinian has pledged to hold the elections in June in a bid resolve a domestic political crisis sparked by Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war.
Moscow has expressed concern at the deepening crisis. Putin discussed it with Pashinian in a February 25 phone call.
Neither leader mentioned the Armenian elections at the start of Wednesday’s meeting.
Pashinian cited instead the need to ascertain “some nuances” of Russian-Armenian military cooperation. He also announced that Armenia will receive on Thursday the first 15,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.
“We need more than a million doses,” the Armenian leader said, implicitly asking Putin to facilitate their delivery.
“Our [vaccine] production is gaining momentum,” replied Putin. “We are talking about a fairly large volume of production of this vaccine. So I think that we will solve this problem.”