New Armenia PM tells Putin Moscow ties won't change

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Sochi (Russia) (AFP)

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 during which 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."

And 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.

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