YEREVAN -- Ahead of a visit to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has called for developing "much more strategic and cooperative" relations with Russia.
Pashinian made the comments in an interview with the Defense Ministry's Armed Forces TV that was set to be aired on September 8. His spokesman, Arman Yeghoyan, posted an excerpt on Facebook on September 7.
In the interview, Pashinian stressed that relations with Russia have a special importance for the South Caucasus nation.
"Our relations should be at a much higher level. They should be much more strategic, much more cooperative, and much more brotherly," he said.
Pashinian is set to meet with Putin in Moscow on September 8. It will be their third meeting since Pashinian, formerly an opposition lawmaker, was elected prime minister after leading a wave of antigovernment protests in May.
Putin will host the Armenian leader one week after meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in the southern Russian city of Sochi.
Analysts expect the long-standing dispute over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh to be a leading topic of the meeting.
Along with the United States and France, Russia co-chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, which is the principal international entity seeking to resolve the protracted Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
Another issue likely to be discussed is Yerevan's prosecution of former government officials. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov twice publicly denounced the prosecutions that came after the change of government in Yerevan, arguing that they ran counter to the new Armenian leadership's earlier pledges not to "persecute its predecessors for political reasons."
Among the officials who have been charged are former President Robert Kocharian and former Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Khachaturov, both of whom are accused of breaching the constitutional order during a deadly postelection crackdown in 2008.
Khachaturov currently chairs the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member. After launching a criminal probe against Khachaturov in late July, Yerevan initiated a procedure to recall him from the top CSTO post.
In a live Facebook broadcast on September 2, Pashinian downplayed problems in Yerevan's relations with Moscow, describing them as a "working process taking their natural course."
Earlier this week, Pashinian also downplayed the significance of political implications behind Putin’s birthday congratulations to Kocharian on August 31, which were taken by some analysts as a sign of Moscow's backing for the former Armenian leader, who announced a return to active politics earlier last month.