Armenia: The caucasian ally of Russian aggression against Ukraine
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that Armenia is a post-Soviet democracy in the Caucasus oriented toward Western values.” This could have been the opening line in an article about Armenia in a better world, but it can hardly be said about Armenia in 2023. What concerns its Soviet past and geographic location is still relevant, but its commitment to democratic Western values and rule of law is highly questionable — writes James Wilson.
The Russian aggression in Ukraine has exposed the ugly truth about Armenia and its participation in the conflict on the side of the aggressor.
On November 23, Russia fired missiles at the maternity ward of the hospital in Volnyansk, Zaporizhia region (a newborn baby was killed), a residential house and a clinic in Kupyansk, Kharkiv region (two dead), residential buildings in Kyiv and Vyshgorod, Kyiv region (7 dead). More missiles targeted Poltava, Vinnitsa, Lviv regions, Odessa, Dnipro, and Mariupol. On the same day Prime Minister Pashinyan welcomed Putin in Yerevan, addressing him as "Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich" and shaking his hand.
This is not surprising: earlier in summer 2022 the Prime Minister claimed that “Russia is a strategic partner and ally of Armenia”.
"The positions of our countries on fundamental international issues are close or coincide," said the deputy speaker of Armenian Parliament Arshakyan on 11 July 11.
These are not isolated statements: "Russia is the closest partner and strategic ally of the Republic of Armenia," the prime minister repeated on 7 September. On 2 November, Parliament speaker Simonyan proudly stated, "I can confidently state that the current Armenian government is one of the most pro-Russian."
To put matters into perspective: since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Pashinyan has visited Russia five times, met with Putin six times and talked to him on the phone 18 (eighteen) times.
Pashinyan was not the only high-ranking Armenian official to bow to the Kremlin. The Armenian defense minister, the secretary of the Security Council, and the chief of the General Staff all paid their visits to Moscow, most of them more than once. The Russian aggression against Ukraine has clearly intensified the military partnership between the two countries: joint military exercises were held in September, and an agreement on military cooperation in 2023 was signed in December. In February of this year, the Armenian parliamentary committee on defense and security issues ratified an agreement on cooperation between the intelligence services of the two countries in the field of information security[i]. The latter looks almost insulting against the backdrop of Ukraine’s joint efforts with Western partners to counter threats from Russia in this area.Advertisement
The war in Ukraine triggered unprecedented growth in trade turnover between Armenia and Russia: in 2022 Armenian exports to Russia totalled $2.4bn, which is 185.7% more than in 2021. Russian imports to Armenia totaled $2.6bn — an increase of 44.5%. On 2 February this year Pashinyan stated with satisfaction: "There is a great and steady growth in our trade and economic relations.” He emphasised "the special personal role of Vladimir Putin... in these dynamics."
Nevertheless, the growth of exports from Armenia to Russia is not only due to simply replacing imports from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. According to Western officials, government agencies and research centres, Armenia serves as one of the main Russian hubs for the purchase of goods in the EU and East Asia, bypassing sanctions. The parallel import of microchips, smartphones and cars through Armenia is especially booming. "New supply chains through Armenia ... were established within days of the sanctions, and it took several months to expand them," a February 2023 report from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development noted. On 2 March, a joint document by the DOJ, Commerce Department, and U.S. Treasury identified Armenia among " third-party intermediaries or transshipment points to evade Russian- and Belarusian-related sanctions and export controls."
Armenia actively assists the Russian Federation in circumventing sanctions not only in the import of civilian goods. In September, the U.S. Treasury Department published detailed information about the participation of an Armenian company in the purchase of foreign equipment for the Russian military industry. In October Bloomberg published evidence of supplies of European equipment components through Armenia for use in Russian military equipment. Armenia is not just a logistical hub, but a centre of military and technical supplies that supports Putin’s regime in its war against Ukraine.
Armenia has become a convenient transshipment point for weapons from Iran. It seems that Ukrainians should “thank” the Armenians for the fact that the Russian army has drones that damage their civilian and energy infrastructure, as well as kill and wound civilians. On 28 November, the Polish magazine New Eastern Europe noted: "Iran supports Russia’s war against Ukraine with the support of Armenia, which helps Moscow circumvent sanctions by supplying Iranian drones and missiles through Armenian airspace and airports. Iran Air Cargo, a subsidiary of Iran Air, flew from Yerevan Zvartnots Airport to Moscow on September 4 and 5, following two previous flights on August 21 and 29. Iran Air Cargo, Safiran Airport Services and their parent company Iran Air are under U.S. sanctions for transferring Iranian drones to Russia with Armenian assistance. Il-76MD Russian Air Force aircraft were also used to transport Iranian drones through Yerevan. Russia used these Iranian drones and missiles for terrorist attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. The U.S. warned Armenia about its close relations with Iran and Russia, including during the CIA chief’s visit to Armenia in the summer of 2022. He warned to stay away from the close military alliance between Iran and Russia, but Armenia has ignored the warning".
This data publicised by a major media outlet affiliated with the Polish government and the European Commission shows that Armenia also serves as a military and logistical base for the war of Russian-Iranian alliance against Ukraine.
The bitter irony of the situation lies in the fact that Armenia is taking unprecedented measures of diplomatic pressure in the international arena in order to achieve recognition of the Armenian genocide. A nation that claims to be a victim of one of the loudest crimes of the 20th century, that demands to hold countries and nations accountable a century later, that demands sanctions against its neighbours, is knowingly and actively participating in the most blatant crime against a once brotherly people. In fact, right now Armenia is up to its neck in what has been repeatedly called the genocide of the Ukrainian people.
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