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“Why would Moscow benefit from Vardanyan’s release and would it make sense to prioritize his fate during the negotiations?

In the last two years, Russia’s participation in settling the Karabakh conflict looks ambiguous and very vague in terms of results. It would be an exaggeration to discuss the success of the peacekeeping mission. Past examples of Russia not showing much interest in the fate of its former allies and partners who were arrested (for example, ex-president of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev) did not make Moscow more appealing as an ally in the post-Soviet space.

Moreover, all interested parties (not only in the South Caucasus) see Vardanyan as a pro-Russian figure. His nominal withdrawal from Russian citizenship was not a demonstrative relocation, but a way to ensure freedom of actions in attempts to settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict politically, so that neither side would speculate on Moscow’s participation. It is no secret that he remained one of the major influential figures of Russian business, continuing to implement large-scale humanitarian projects in the Russian Federation. Lastly, the very presence of Vardanyan on the political scene gave the Russian side additional maneuverability. This will continue to be true even now. In turn, Vardanyan’s isolation will make, surprisingly, Pashinyan government a beneficiary of the crisis, as it is focused on tough suppression of all forms of internal opposition. And I’m not sure that Moscow will find this result psychologically and politically comfortable.”

Mikhail Vinogradov, political scientist, President of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation