Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday hailed Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s “courage” in agreeing to a peace deal over Nagorno-Karabakh that triggered a backlash against the leader at home.
Armenia signed a Russian-brokered accord with Azerbaijan on November 9 after six weeks of heavy fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Under the deal, Armenia ceded three districts around the ethnic Armenian enclave in addition to four others that Azerbaijani forces reclaimed during the fighting.
Speaking during a video conference meeting of the leaders of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Putin called Pashinyan’s decisions surrounding the ending of the conflict “necessary” but “painful”.
“They required a lot of personal courage on the part of the prime minister,” Putin said.
“Our task now is to support both the prime minister and his team in order to ensure peace,” he added.
The Russian leader’s show of support for Pashinyan came as the Armenian prime minister faces pressure at home.
Since the announcement of the peace deal – which leaves Karabakh’s future political status in limbo – protesters have regularly taken to the streets of the Armenian capital, Yerevan.
Demonstrators have branded Pashinyan a “traitor” for agreeing to the deal and have demanded his resignation.
The Armenian authorities last month said they had thwarted a plot to assassinate the prime minister.
Pashinyan, whose wife and son were on the front lines during the conflict, has said the peace deal was Armenia’s only option and that it ensured Karabakh’s survival.
Even though the disputed region lost swaths of territory, it will see its future guaranteed by nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to be deployed for a renewable five-year mandate.