The Russian military stationed in Armenia had illegally arrested a Russian civilian in Gyumri, Armenia, who was slated to be transported by plane to Russia and tried for desertion.

As reported by Radio Liberty, the arrested man is a Russian citizen, Anatoly Nikolayevich Shchetin, whom human rights lawyer Ani Chatinyan said has refused to fight in Ukraine and sought refuge in Armenia.

“As of yesterday, Anatoly Nikolayevich Shchetin was illegally kidnapped and held in the military base, who is being tried by the Russian Federation since yesterday, and is waiting, according to the information we received, to be transported by plane to the Russian Federation,” Chatinyan told Radio Liberty.

Chatinyan reiterated that Russian authorities have no right to carry out arrests in Armenia, and the news of Shchetin’s arrest has been communicated to Armenian authorities.

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“We have sent a crime report to the General Prosecutor’s Office, stating that the Russian law enforcement agencies do not have the right, authority to carry out such an operation in the territory under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Armenia, and Anatoly Shchetin should be immediately transferred to the law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Armenia,” Chatinyan said.

The Armenian General Prosecutor’s Office told Radio Liberty that the human rights organization’s report was processed in accordance with the established procedure, with no further elaboration.

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The minister added that the current number of Russian forces stationed in Ukraine and along its borders stands at 500 thousand troops.

The latest incident echoed that of Dmitry Setrakov, another Russian citizen who refused to fight in Ukraine and sought refuge in Armenia subsequently illegally arrested and extradited to Russia on desertion charges by Russian military police from the same area in December 2023.

In February, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called Setrakov’s arrest an “abduction” and voiced his concerns in an interview with France24.

The Insitute for the Study of War (ISW) called Moscow’s latest move “an effort to assert military and political power over Armenia and to challenge Armenia’s sovereignty amid a continued deterioration of Armenian–Russian relations” in its daily update.

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While Armenia has long been a close ally of the Kremlin, relations between the two have deteriorated drastically over the September 2023 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which saw Yerevan ceding control over the disputed region to Azerbaijan following the latter’s military operations, which the Russian peacekeeping troops stationed in Armenia failed to intervene to Yerevan’s dissatisfaction.

In March, Yerevan informed Moscow of its desire for Russian troops to withdraw from the Zvartnots airport since “Armenia is institutionally capable of independently implementing border guard service.”

Following the ceding of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia also rebuffed the Russian-led Collective Treaty Security Organization (CTSO) – Moscow’s equivalent of NATO – and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which is Moscow’s envisioned equivalent of the EU.

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