Armenians prepare to defend themselves against Russia as relations sour

Written by Jeppe W

Nov.29 - 2023 9:43 AM CET

In southern Armenia’s Syunik province, the prospect of war looms large

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In the southern Syunik province of Armenia, residents are preparing for the worst amid rising tensions and changing regional dynamics.

According to Moscow Times the community's response to this looming threat is embodied by VOMA, a paramilitary group that offers a three-month program in emergency first aid, weapons training, and mountaineering – skills crucial for survival in the rugged terrain near the Azerbaijani border.

VOMA, which operates 22 branches across Armenia, has seen a surge in attendees following Azerbaijan's offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that was quickly overtaken, causing a mass exodus into Armenia.

This influx of people seeking training is not just a reaction to immediate threats but also a reflection of a broader geopolitical shift.

Many Armenians feel abandoned by the international community, particularly by Russia, Armenia’s historic ally. Despite promises to mediate conflicts and the presence of Russian peacekeepers, Moscow did little to intervene in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Russia's apparent inaction is perceived as a historic shift in its regional policy.

Armenia, which has long relied on Russia for arms supply and political support, is now grappling with the reality of a strained relationship. This situation is further complicated by Armenia’s recent overtures to the West, including joint military drills with the U.S. and aid to Ukraine.

Experts believe that Russia's cold shoulder towards Armenia is partly due to its increased isolation because of the Ukraine war.

This has made southern partners like Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran, which provide links to global markets, more valuable to Russia. Additionally, Armenia's move to join the International Criminal Court, which could obligate Yerevan to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he were to visit, has further strained relations.

With the West also unlikely to provide the level of support Armenia needs, the country finds itself in a precarious position.

The growing instability and the fear of further Azerbaijani aggression, possibly to create a land corridor to its exclave of Nakhichevan, have left residents like Mariam and the trainees at VOMA bracing for uncertain times.

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