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New Armenia PM tells Putin Moscow ties will remain close

New Armenian premier Nikol Pashinyan on Monday assured Russia’s Vladimir Putin that Yerevan’s ties with Moscow will remain close following his rise to power on the back of mass anti-government protests.

Pashinyan met the Russian president on the sidelines of the Eurasian Economic Summit in Sochi. It was his first meeting with a foreign leader since being elected prime minister last week.

“I can assure you that on this issue (of relations with Russia), there is consensus in Armenia, and nobody has or will question the strategic importance of Russian-Armenian relations,” he told Putin.

The 42-year-old former newspaper editor also thanked Putin for Russia’s “balanced position” during the Caucasus country’s political crisis when Pashinyan led weeks of protests and civil disobedience campaigns.

“This was highly appreciated not only by our government, but by Armenian society as a whole,” he said.

Moscow has previously intervened in several political crises in former Soviet countries, most notably in Ukraine in 2014.

Acknowledging Armenia as “our closest partner in the region,” Putin wished Pashinyan success in his new role, saying he hoped relations would “develop as steadily as they did until now.”

He said Moscow’s policies regarding Armenia would remain unchanged.

“We will be just as active in the international arena, starting from the UN where Armenia and Russia always support each other,” he added.

Putin went on to congratulate Pashinyan on his victory in front of his Belarusian, Kazakh and Kyrgyz counterparts while opening the summit.

“I would like to first of all congratulate the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan. I congratulate you again on your election to this post,” Putin said.

Pashinyan has repeatedly stressed that his country’s relations with Moscow will not be affected by the protest movement he started.

“I understand that Moscow has certain worries, I think that after our talks there will be no more concerns and Russian-Armenian relations will improve,” Pashinyan told Russian state television channel Rossiya 24 on Friday.

He added that the ties between the small Caucasus nation and its former Soviet master should be based on “sincerity.”

Armenia’s parliament elected Pashinyan last week after he spearheaded weeks of mass protests against the ruling party, transforming the country’s political landscape.