Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called his country's security agreements with Russia "ineffective" on Sunday, signaling a potential shift away from Moscow after it refused to intervene in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russia had acted as guarantor for a peace deal that ended a 44-day war with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory three years ago, with peacekeepers deployed around the region.
However, Azerbaijan's much larger army was able to overpower ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and capture the enclave earlier this week. The fighting killed at least 200 people, according to Armenian authorities.
"The systems of external security in which Armenia is involved are ineffective when it comes to the protection of our security and Armenia's national interests," Pashinyan said during a televised address to the nation on Sunday.
His comments come as Armenian authorities prepare to accept around 120,000 refugees entering the country from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinyan slams CSTO
Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-dominated alliance of post-Soviet states that pledge to protect each other in the event of an attack. But Russia's armed forces are currently focused on the invasion of Ukraine.
The Kremlin has in recent days blamed Pashinyan for his handling of the crisis and said it would not intervene because Armenia itself recognizes the disputed region as part of Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan said Armenia must transform its security arrangements "in cooperation with all the partners who are ready for mutually beneficial steps."
"It has become evident to all of us that the CSTO instruments and the instruments of the Armenian-Russian military-political cooperation are insufficient for protecting external security of Armenia," he said.
Armenia moves to join ICC
Pashinyan also said that Armenia should join the International Criminal Court (ICC) — a tribunal which has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in March over his actions in Ukraine. Putin has avoided visiting ICC member states since then.
Earlier this month, Pashinyan sent the ICC's founding document, the Rome Statute, to be ratified by parliament.
"The decision is not directed against CSTO and the Russian Federation," he said. "It comes from the interests of the country's external security, and taking such a decision is our sovereign right."
First refugees arrive in Armenia
On Sunday, the first group of refugees fleeing Azerbaijan's offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in the Armenian border town of Kornidzor.
Officials from Armenia's Foreign Ministry were present in the town to register the new arrivals.
The group was composed mainly of women, children and the elderly.
Armenian authorities said a total of 377 people had arrived from the region as of Sunday night.
Azerbaijan has pledged to allow rebel fighters who lay down their arms to go to Armenia via the so-called Lachin Corridor.
zc/jcg (AFP, Reuters)