Armenia sees no advantage in keeping Russian military bases -PM to WSJ

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Armenia sees no advantage in continuing to host Russian military bases on its territory after Azerbaijan retook the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian prime minister told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Wednesday.

Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally viewed as Azeri territory but had been run by ethnic Armenians since the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, in a lightning military operation on Sept. 20.

“These events have essentially brought us to a decision that we need to diversify our relationships in the security sphere, and we are trying to do that now,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told the WSJ.

Russia’s military presence in Armenia includes garrisons in two locations and an airbase. Moscow has long seen itself as the guarantor of Armenia’s security in the volatile South Caucasus, a region crisscrossed with oil and gas pipelines.

Later on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian authorities were unaware of Pashinyan’s comments.

“We don’t yet know if he said those words, and if he did, where, in what context. We don’t have such information,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

(Reporting by Felix LightWriting by Maxim RodionovEditing by Gareth Jones and Leslie Adler)