Armenia says 'froze' participation in Moscow-led security bloc

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Armenia has suspended its participation in a Russia-led security bloc, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in an interview published on Friday, Yerevan's latest step to distance itself from Moscow.

Russia and Armenia have traditionally been allies but relations soured last year when Russian peacekeepers did not intervene to stop Azerbaijan taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh from the Armenian separatists who ran the enclave.

"In practice, we have frozen our participation in this organisation," Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told the France 24 channel, referring to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

The bloc, a defence pact, is led by Russia and comprises several former Soviet republics.

Armenia boycotted a CSTO summit at the end of last year.

"We believe that the CSTO did not fulfil its objectives vis-a-vis Armenia in 2021 and 2022," Pashinyan said in the interview.

He also accused Moscow of leading a "coordinated propaganda campaign" against him and his government.

The Kremlin said on Friday it had not received official confirmation that Armenia was leaving the CSTO.

"We intend to contact our Armenian colleagues to clarify its statements on CSTO," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

In September, Azerbaijani forces retook control of Nagorno-Karabakh in a 24-hour offensive that ended three decades of Armenian separatist rule over the enclave.

In a sign of its ambition for new security guarantees, Yerevan is seeking to rely more on its Western partners -- mainly on France and the United States -- than on Russia.

Moscow has for decades been the main moderator of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh but has been bogged down by its two-year Ukraine offensive.

Armenia formally joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the start of February, despite Moscow warning the small Caucasus country against the move.

It is now obliged to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he sets foot on Armenian territory under an ICC arrest warrant issued for the Russian leader in March 2023.