The Kremlin has ordered media and lawmakers to blame Armenia for Azerbaijan’s latest attack on the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia’s independent news outlets Meduza and Vyorstka reported Wednesday, citing anonymous sources.
The circulated instructions to media and officials follow Armenia’s frustration over what it sees as Russia’s failure to guarantee its security amid escalating tensions with Azerbaijan.
Before the latest outbreak of fighting, Moscow had accused Yerevan of a series of “unfriendly steps” when it announced joint military drills with U.S. troops.
Meduza said it obtained Kremlin instructions for state-run media to emphasize that Armenia’s leadership had already “recognized Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh” last fall.
“Armenia’s Prime Minister was likely pressured to make this statement by his Western ‘partners,’ who should fully share responsibility for the consequences,” the instructions state.
“The Armenian leadership’s decision, which has radically changed the status of Karabakh, signaled for Azerbaijan to act and now Baku perceives Nagorno-Karabakh as its internal conflict,” they continue.
Similarly, members of Russia’s parliament were told to criticize Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for the outbreak of hostilities and play down civilian casualties inflicted by the Azeri forces, an unidentified Russian senator told the independent news website Vyorstka.
The instructions are the Kremlin’s retaliation toward Pashinyan’s increasingly anti-Russian and pro-Western rhetoric, according to an anonymous member of Russia’s lower-house State Duma.
“That’s why we’re to make him a scapegoat in our comments,” the deputy was quoted as saying by Vyorstka.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov echoed the reported talking points, telling reporters Wednesday that Moscow rejects Armenia’s accusations of inaction because of Yerevan’s recognition of Karabakh as Azeri territory.
On Wednesday, Baku and Karabakh’s ethnic-Armenian authorities said they had reached a ceasefire brokered by Russian peacekeepers, just a day after Azerbaijan launched an “anti-terrorist operation” in Karabakh.
The collapse of separatist resistance represents a major victory for Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in his quest to bring the disputed territory back under Baku’s control, Moscow Times reports.