Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's statement about a phased settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the established format of the Azerbaijan-Armenia-OSCE Minsk Group, as well as about gas prices, showed Moscow’s intention to switch to tougher contacts with Yerevan. The new Armenian authorities, accustomed to Russia’s patient attitude towards them, were not ready for this, especially in the current conditions, hence the Armenian Foreign Ministry's statements, de facto accusing Sergei Lavrov of lying.
Leading analyst of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications Mikhail Neyzhmakov told Vestnik Kavkaza that "Sergei Lavrov’s remark about 'projects that were distributed a year ago' is a doubly problematic signal for Yerevan, given that it was said a few days before April 24 - during this period, as a rule, Armenia's first persons try to demonstrate tougher rhetoric to their internal audience on the Karabakh issue."
"Among the statements made by the Russian Foreign Minister at the roundtable on April 21, there is another problematic remark for the Armenian government - on gas price negotiations," the expert pointed out, recalling that the Kremlin’s message about the telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Nikol Pashinyan was extremely concise, which could be due to the absence of key issues from Moscow and Yerevan.
The leading analyst at the Agency for Political and Economic Communications drew attention to the fact that Lavrov’s words about the settlement were more binding than what Armenia expected. "Lavrov’s commentary creates less room for interpretation than many other statements by representatives of intermediary countries on this issue. For example, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry says 'when', and not 'if we come to a decision on signing documents' on the Karabakh settlement. All of this may indicate Moscow’s intention to switch to a tougher format of dialogue with Yerevan," Mikhail Neizhmakov emphasized.
At the same time, the toughening will also concern issues that are not directly related to the Karabakh issue, on which the leaderships of Russia and Armenia have not yet reached a consensus, in particular, on gas prices and, as Sergey Lavrov said, about "difficult situations faced by Russian companies" operating in Armenia.
"Economic difficulties, including those related to the coronavirus outbreak, make Yerevan more vulnerable to pressure. However, coronacrisis may become an argument for Nikol Pashinyan in dialogue with Moscow, additionally justifying why even minimal concessions in negotiations with Baku on the Karabakh issue could threaten the destabilization of the domestic political situation in Armenia," he suggested.
Thus, Pashinyan may try to use Russia's reluctance to get a political crisis in another neighboring country, the leading analyst at the Agency for Political and Economic Communications noted.
"Against this background, we can see not an increase in intensity in the coming months, but additional obstacles on the part of Armenia to intensify negotiations on the Karabakh issue," Mikhail Neyzhmakov concluded.