YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia’s leading political groups praised the commander of Russian troops station in the country for stating that his forces could fight on the Armenian side if Azerbaijan attempts a military solution to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky made the statement in a recent interview with a Russian Defense Ministry newspaper. He cited Russia’s “obligations within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).”
Azerbaijani officials were quick to condemn the statement. They said that since Karabakh is an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan an Azerbaijani attempt to reconquer the disputed territory cannot be considered an attack on Armenia warranting military action by the latter’s CSTO allies.
“This is an indicator of poor subordination in the Russian state hierarchy,” Mubariz Gurbanli, the deputy executive secretary of Azerbaijan’s ruling party, told the Turan news agency. “Under a normal state system a soldier making such a statement would have been kicked out.”
Armenian reaction was diametrically opposite. The chief spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Eduard Sharmazanov, said Russia thus openly questioned Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh. “This is a clear message to Azerbaijan’s leadership that in case of restarting hostilities they will find themselves in a very bad situation,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Aghvan Vartanian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation, called the Russian commander’s remark “unprecedented.” “It means something,” he said.
“Of course for us the key thing is to be able to defend us and Nagorno-Karabakh by ourselves. But CSTO member states have certain obligations here,” added Vartanian.
Tevan Poghosian, a parliament deputy representing the opposition Zharangutyun party, claimed that the statement reflects mediating powers’ reluctance to help Azerbaijan regain control over Karabakh. “They realize that Artsakh is not part of Azerbaijan,” he said, referring to Russia, France and the United States.