The embattled leader, who has faced waves of mass protests and riots in the capital, Yerevan, since signing a Kremlin-backed ceasefire agreement, made the comments to parliamentarians on Wednesday. "How should Armenia ensure its security?" Pashinyan asked. "We must emphasize that the basis of Armenia's external security is a military alliance with Russia, which is underpinned by several dozen treaties."
"In this context, the Armenian-Russian joint deployment of forces and a unified air defense system are of practical importance for us." On the basis of these two approaches, he said, "an attack on Armenia means an attack on Russia." The prime minister also revealed that the two countries have begun discussions around expanding a Russian military base in the country, and potentially opening a second site in Armenia's far south, which neighbors both the disputed self-declared Republic of Artsakh and Iran.
While internationally recognized as a de jure part of Azerbaijan, Artsakh is administered by a breakaway government that is loyal to Yerevan and includes many ethnic Armenians. The only overland link to Armenia, however, is the so-called Lachin corridor, now controlled by Russian peacekeepers under the terms of a ceasefire agreement. Much of the province of Nagorno-Karabakh was run by officials from Artsakh, until it was captured by Azerbaijani forces after a short and bloody war that began last year.
In January, Russian President Vladimir Putin brought together Pashinyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev for talks on maintaining peace in the region. "Russia values the partnership and good neighborly relations that bind our countries and people, so we followed the outbreak of the armed conflict with grave concern," Putin said at the time.
Earlier this year, former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan claimed that his country might be better if it were ruled once again from Moscow. Kocharyan said Yerevan "should very seriously think about deeper interaction with Russia – much deeper than it is now." He added that "It is better to talk not about the restoration of the Soviet Union, but about full-fledged modern integration."
Later on Wednesday, Armenian health minister Anahit Avanesyan announced that the government had reached terms with Russia to purchase one million doses of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. This, he claimed, would be enough to immunize one in five of those living in the country by the end of the year.
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