Intellinews – Russia Today
September 3, 2018 Monday
Situation in Armenia "still boiling", Russia's foreign minister says
Russian officials remain concerned over the situation in Armenia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on September 3, describing the South Caucasus country as "still boiling" after the "people's revolution" in late April and early May.
Since coming to power in May, protest leader turned Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has sought to get Russia – the major regional power and Armenia's vital ally in a region where it is surrounded by enemies – on side with his plans for the small, impoverished nation of 2.9mn.
His first foreign trip was to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, and he was quick to back away from previous statements, voiced as an opposition leader, that Armenia should quit the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Still, concerns remain as to Moscow's true feelings about the new Armenian premier, who has boldly taken on the old guard in Yerevan, many of whom had ties to Russia, in particular by allowing investigations into the events of March 2008-in which anti-government protests were bloodily put down-to be reopened, and by announcing an end to the monopolies that have long dominated the Armenian economy.
Speaking at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on September 3, Lavrov focused on the former matter. Tass newswire reported him as saying: "We are concerned that the situation in Armenia is still boiling, in particular, events that took place 10 years ago are being investigated and arrests are taking place." he said, as reported by Russia's Tass newswire.
Former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan was among those lately arrested in connection with the "Marti mek" (March 1) protests of 2008 in which 10 people were killed in a violent clampdown on demonstrators, though he was later released. Yerevan, meanwhile, has been seeking the removal of the current head of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) Yuri Khachatryan, also facing accusations in relation to Marti mek.
Shortly after Kocharyan's arrest on July 31, Lavrov said the detentions "run counter to the new Armenian authorities' recent statements" that they did not intend to persecute their predecessors for political reasons.
However, Lavrov's speech latest stressed that the current situation is "Armenia's domestic affair" and that Moscow had avoided interfering either during the revolution or when the old regime under former president Serzh Sargsyan took the fatal step of transferring power from the president to the prime minister's position – which was taken up by Sargsyan earlier this year, thus precipitating the protests.
"We believe that it is Armenia's domestic affair and would like these domestic affairs to remain based on the country's laws and constitution so that they can be resolved as soon as possible and Armenia can focus on creative tasks," Lavrov said, Tass reported.
"We have been keeping an eye on the events that took place after the constitutional provision, which transferred all major powers from the president to the prime minister elected by the country's parliament, had come into effect … We took no actions and made no statements that by any stretch of the imagination could be taken as interference in domestic affairs… I cannot say that other players acted in the same way," the Russian foreign minister commented.
PM Pashinian, meanwhile, on September 2 downplayed problems in Yerevan's relations with Moscow, describing them as a "work process in its natural course", RFE/RL reported
Answering questions from citizens in a live Facebook broadcast, Pashinian also announced an upcoming visit to Moscow, during which he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"This will be our third meeting, and… we will discuss numerous issues that are on the agenda of our relations and will find solutions to numerous problems," Pashinian said.
"I don't mean to insist that all possible problems will be solved, but I can surely say that our natural cooperation continues," he added.