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Armenia Contradicts Kremlin On Postponement Of CSTO Summit

Yuri Khachaturov, a longtime former chief of staff in Armenia's military, was relieved of his post as CSTO secretary-general in November after being hit with criminal charges in July.

YEREVAN -- Armenia did not request a postponement of a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit that had been scheduled to be held in Yerevan on December 6, a spokesman for acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has said.

Arman Egoian's comments to RFE/RL on December 4 came hours after an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yury Ushakov, told reporters in Moscow that the summit had been postponed until an unspecified date in 2019 at Armenia's request.

Ushakov, whose country dominates the six-nation CSTO, said the summit was being postponed because Armenia is holding snap parliamentary elections on December 9.

But Egoian said that Pashinian had explained the real reason to journalists earlier, and that Armenia did not request the postponement.

Pashinian said on December 2 that the summit was postponed due to a lack of agreement on the selection of a new CSTO secretary-general to replace the Armenian who was dismissed in November

Armenia currently holds the rotating presidency of the CSTO, which also includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Dramatic domestic political developments in Armenia have sent ripples through the CSTO, which Kremlin critics say Putin uses to maintain Russian influence in the former Soviet Union.

A former opposition lawmaker, Pashinian came to power in May after leading street protests that prompted the resignation of his long-ruling predecessor, Serzh Sarkisian, whose government had close ties with Russia.

Yuri Khachaturov, a longtime former chief of staff in Armenia's military, was relieved of his post as CSTO secretary-general in November after being hit with criminal charges in his home country in July.

Khachaturov was charged with disrupting Armenia's constitutional order a decade ago, when he was a deputy defense minister, in connection with a crackdown that followed a disputed March 2008 presidential election.

Pashinan is looking to the December 9 election to cement his power and decrease the influence that Sarkisian's party still holds through its large faction in the South Caucasus country's parliament.

Pashinian has vowed to maintain close ties with Russia, which has a major military base in Armenia and plays an influential role in its economy.

But at a meeting with Putin in September, he hinted at wariness about Russia's sway, stressing the importance of "respect for the sovereignty of our countries" and "the principle of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs.”

Ushakov said earlier that Valery Semerikov, a Russian, will continue to serve as acting CSTO secretary-general.