01/09/2021, 15.07
ARMENIA – RUSSIA – TURKEY
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As Yerevan copes with coronavirus and refugees, Putin and Erdoğan get friendlier

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Armenian president is in solitary confinement with severe symptoms of COVID-19. Total cases have reached 161,415 with 361 in one day at last count. Under Russian military protection, 50,000 Armenian refugees have returned to Nagorno-Karabakh in recent weeks. For Putin, the Turkish president is a man who does everything for the good of his country. Patriarch Kirill blames Patriarch Bartholomew for Hagia Sophia’s use as a mosque.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Armenian President Armen Sarkisyan's press office announced yesterday that the president is in hospital with severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Mr Sarkisyan is in isolation and his condition appears to be fairly stable, which allows him to work remotely. Doctors hope to allow him to return to the presidential palace shortly.

Sarkisyan spent the New Year's Day in London with his family, and on his return home, he was tested positive.

As a precaution, controversial Prime Minister Nikol Pašinyan also put himself in voluntary isolation.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus epidemic has reached worrying levels with 361 new cases in one day for a total of 161,415.

The COVID crisis is compounded by the refugees of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, whose repatriation has been completed.

Yesterday, Russian army peacekeepers led a column of 181 people, on buses from the Armenian capital Yerevan to Stepanakert, Karabakh's main city.

Over the past few weeks, almost 50,000 Armenians were repatriated under Russian military protection. Russian forces have helped distribute humanitarian aid and rebuild damaged houses and infrastructure.

Russia’s Defence Ministry also announced that 23 observation points are monitoring the ceasefire agreement signed on 10 November between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

More than 15 Russian brigades are deployed as peacekeepers, along with an unknown number of Turkish troops supporting Azerbaijani forces.

Russian-Turkish relations have come under closer scrutiny lately after Russia had to give in to Turkey in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus to varying degrees in 2020.

In his end-of-year press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We have different, occasionally opposing views on certain matters with President Erdoğan. But he keeps his word like a real man. He does not wag his tail. If he thinks something is good for his country, he goes for it. This is about predictability. It is important to know whom you are dealing with.”

Putin also suggested that Russia should review its approach at the international level.

Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) also spoke about Erdoğan and his decision to reopen Hagia Sophia Basilica and other Istanbul churches as mosques.

Instead of criticising the Turkish President, he blamed his Orthodox “rival”, ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis). In Kirill’s view, the Christian defeat over Hagia Sophia is “divine punishment for supporting the Ukrainian schism”.

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