Russia summons Armenian ambassador over Ukraine aid pledge

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YEREVAN, Armenia — Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has hauled in Armenia’s ambassador for a dressing down over what it says amount to a string of hostile steps that have seen the country, formally an ally of Moscow, distance itself from the Kremlin in recent days.

In a statement on Friday evening, officials said Vagharshak Harutyunyan had been called in for “difficult” talks after Armenia signed off on the “transfer of humanitarian aid to Kyiv’s Nazi regime.”

Yerevan announced earlier this week it would provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine as Russia steps up its strikes against infrastructure and civilian targets, while Anna Hakobyan, the wife of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, made an official visit to the country in a rare show of support.

At the same time, Armenia — which is a member of the Moscow-led CSTO defense pact — recalled its envoy to the military bloc on Tuesday. In another decision condemned by Moscow’s spurned foreign ministry, Armenia said on Wednesday it would host joint military exercises with U.S. soldiers next week.

The move came days after Pashinyan told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that “our dependence on Russia for security was a mistake” amid escalating tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan. The CSTO has previously refused requests from Yerevan for support, despite pleas from the country’s government.

In June, Pashinyan indicated a growing rift between his country and Moscow, saying “We are not Russia’s ally in the war with Ukraine. And our feeling from that war, from that conflict, is anxiety because it directly affects all our relationships.”

At the same time, Armenia has been accused of becoming a hub for the re-export of restricted goods to Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine. However, in an interview with POLITICO in June, Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safaryan insisted it was working with both the U.S. and the EU to close existing loopholes.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are at odds over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, inside Azerbaijan’s internationally-recognized borders but controlled by its ethnic Armenian population.

In the wake of a brief but bloody war in 2020, Azerbaijan has taken over control of entry and exit to the region, and aid organizations say they are unable to deliver supplies of food and fuel, warning a humanitarian crisis is now unfolding. Azerbaijan denies the claims, insisting local Armenians must lay down their weapons and submit to being governed as part of the country.