Woman’s Robe Blow To Armenia-Russia Relations


YEREVAN, July 23. /ARKA/. Since the beginning of the week Armenia
has been disturbed by the scandal over the events after detention
of Armenian citizen Hrachya Harutiunyan who is suspected of a dead
crush killing 18 bus passengers near Podolsk, Russia.

Armenian society was indignant at the fact that Harutiunyan was doped
with drugs, then taken out of a medically induced coma and driven to
the court straight from the hospital, in a parti-colored woman’s robe.

People were also outraged by the coverage of the events in a number of
Russian mass media outlets, including the state-owned, where reporters,
having completely forgotten journalists’ code of ethics and Russian
Federation laws, had widely used unacceptable formulations like a
driver-Armenian, an inarticulate driver, and etc.

Russian “Vesti” TV program even blockaded broadcasting of its TV spot
about Harutiunyan in Armenia, instead of giving proper response to
their reporter Olga Skabeyeva’s actions.

The rising protests against Russian police and the court, as well as
the hospital, which, whether intentionally or not, put Harutiunyan
on public humiliation, were more and more turning into anti-Russian

Some said it was a purposeful action, along with the increase in
Russian gas price and the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan, aimed at
preventing Armenia from signing Armenia-EU association agreement in
Vilnius in November.

Protests were held near the Russian embassy building for several days.

Protesters were attempting to hand letters and … woman’s robes to
the Russian ambassador to Armenia.

The migrants’ problem probably has had certain effect on the coverage
of the accident in Podolsk. The poll conducted by Levada-Center in
early July showed 55% of Moscow residents consider huge number of
migrants from former Soviet Caucasus and Middle Asia regions the main
problem of the Russian capital.

Acting Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin included the counter-action
against excessive immigration and as one of the main points of his
election campaign.

“Ethnical crimes are one of the main problems in the capital… There
are about 300,000 illegal migrants in the city. If crimes committed
by entrants are taken away, Moscow will be the most law-abiding city
in the world”, Sobyanin said.

After the deadly crush in Podolsk Sobyanin instructed to inspect
road haulers and suggested deporting foreigner drivers from Russia
for violations. Yet, the Moscow Mayor forgot to ask why the traffic
lights were installed on the crossroad only after the tragedy,
despite reoccurrence of crushes there.

Or why could some strange commercial organizations assembling trucks
from worn-out spare parts easily operate in his city?

The statement of Russian ministry of interior rep Yelena Molotilkina
that “investigators should carry out investigatory actions, instead
of dressing him or changing his clothes” confirms once again that
Russian state bodies do not like admitting their faults.

According to well-known advocate and head of Russian Public Chamber
commission on security of citizens Anatoly Kucherena, Harutiunyan
was taken to the court in a woman’s robe not intentionally.

“It is difficult to say why his advocate did not come and did not
bring him his clothes. But before taking Harutiunyan to the court,
means should be found to dress him in a man’s, not woman’s clothes”,
Kucherena said.

Many Russians expressed their indignation over the event in social
networks and said that Russian state bodies disgraced themselves. A
comment has stuck in my mind reading “it is not the poor driver who
is in the cage in a robe; it is Russia that is in the cage and looks
like a robe and slippers”.

The question also is why the Armenian embassy got interested in Hrachya
Harutiunyan’s case only after indignation broke out in the Armenian
mass media and social networks. The scandal could be avoided if the
embassy reps had visited Harutiunyan in the prison Sunday.

Only a few mass media and bloggers brought up the main issue the
case revealed – why a Karabakh war veteran, who went as a volunteer
to defend his homeland, had to leave Armenia to earn money for his
dead son’s tombstone. What was his life in the home country like, if
had to leave for Moscow and agree to drive a bush-league overloaded
truck against a payment that none of locals would agree to.

Yet, Armenian mass media and human rights activists would better
not repeat mistakes of Russian colleagues and not label all Russians
while defending their countryman. The tragedy should not give rise
to international strife.

Surprisingly, the most adequate approach toward the problem was shown
by Harutiunyan’s daughter. She said, “I, first of all, would like
to deliver my condolences to the families of the killed and bow down
before them. I wish them strength and will to overcome the pain. Me
and my father, we know what that pain feels like. But I ask and
demand all officials who can help my father within their competence,
to do so. When the state needed my father’s help, he went; he risked
his life and defended us. Now it is him who needs the help”. -0-

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