RFE/RL Armenian Service – 11/27/2023

                                        Monday, November 27, 2023

Russia Tightens Border Controls For Armenian Trucks
November 27, 2023
        • Narine Ghalechian
        • Shoghik Galstian

RUSSIA - Cars and heavy trucks are lined up near the Upper Lars border crossing 
with Georgia, November 21, 2023.

Hundreds of Armenian trucks were stuck at the main Russian-Georgian border 
crossing on Monday after Russia reportedly tightened import and export controls 
on them amid its unprecedented tensions with Armenia.

Truck drivers said that the Russian customs service is subjecting them to 
stricter sanitary and other checks, causing long lines of the heavy vehicles on 
both sides of the Upper Lars crossing vital for the Armenian economy.

“I’m stuck at Lars for a second day,” one driver told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. 
“There is a problem with paperwork. It’s not just me but also other Armenian 

“According to our information, several trucks have already returned [to Armenia] 
and about 200 others are waiting in line,” Garnik Danielian, an opposition 
parliamentarian, wrote on Facebook.

Deputy Economy Minister Arman Khojoyan confirmed that Russian customs officers 
have turned away some of the Armenian trucks carrying goods for the Russian 
market. But he did not give any numbers.

“As the head of the State Revenue Committee told me yesterday, it’s not that 
they are turning away all goods or entire categories of goods,” he told 
reporters. “We also have cargo crossing the border.”

Khojoyan would not say whether he believes there is a political reason for the 
stricter border checks introduced by the Russians.

RUSSIA -- An Armenian truck passes through the newly expanded Upper Lars border 
crossing with Georgia, June 21, 2023.

Artur Khachatrian, another Armenian opposition lawmaker, suggested that Moscow 
is retaliating against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s decision to boycott last 
week’s Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Minsk which 
highlighted a significant deterioration of Russian-Armenian relations.

“I think that Russia is sending certain messages [to Yerevan],” said 
Khachatrian. “Let’s acknowledge that this is not accidental.”

The truck driver, who did not want to be identified, also felt that he and his 
Armenian colleagues remain stuck at Upper Lars because of the tensions between 
Moscow and Yerevan.

“The [Armenian] government picked a fight with the Russians and the Russians are 
now retaliating in this way,” he said.

Russia is Armenia’s leading trading partner, accounting for more than one-third 
of the South Caucasus nation’s foreign trade. It has long been the main export 
market for Armenian agricultural products, prepared foodstuffs and alcoholic 

The total volume of Russian-Armenian trade, mainly carried out through Upper 
Lars, has skyrocketed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting 
barrage of Western sanctions against Moscow.

Armenian entrepreneurs have taken advantage of those sanctions, re-exporting 
various goods manufactured in Western countries to Russia. This explains why 
Armenian exports to Russia nearly doubled to $2.6 billion in January-September 
this year.

Yerevan Won’t Rule Out CSTO Exit
November 27, 2023
        • Shoghik Galstian

Belarus - The presidents of Russia and other CSTO member states meet in Minsk, 
November 23, 2023.

Armenia could leave the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) due to 
the Russian-led alliance’s reluctance to openly support it in the conflict with 
Azerbaijan, a leading member of the ruling Civil Contract party said on Monday.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian also did not rule out such a possibility on 
Friday one day after boycotting a summit of the leaders of Russia and other CSTO 
member states held in Minsk. He again accused the CSTO of not honoring its 
security obligations to Armenia.

“There is a defined situation in which we would definitely leave [the CSTO,]” 
Gevorg Papoyan, the deputy chairman of Civil Contract’s governing board, told 
journalists. “We don’t have that situation yet.”

“But there is also a situation where we would definitely participate in those 
[CSTO] meetings. There is no such situation either,” he said, alluding to an 
effective freeze on Armenia’s participation in the alliance’s activities.

Papoyan did not specify those “situations.” Nor did he say if Pashinian’s 
government wants to obtain security guarantees from Western powers before 
officially reorienting Armenia’s towards the United States and the European 

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Yerevan of planning such a reorientation in 
late September as tensions between the two longtime allies rose further 
following Azerbaijan’s military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh which Moscow did 
not prevent, stop or even condemn.

In recent months, Pashinian has repeatedly said that the alliance with Russia 
cannot guarantee Armenia’s national security. His refusal to attend the CSTO 
summit in Minsk stoked speculation about the South Caucasus state’s imminent 
exit from the alliance.

Alen Simonian, the Armenian parliament speaker and another senior Civil Contract 
member, said last week that he will not attend an upcoming session of the CSTO’s 
Parliamentary Assembly.

CSTO Head Downplays Armenian Boycott Of Summit
November 27, 2023

Armenia - CSTO Secretary General Imangali Tasmagambetov at a meeting with 
Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikian, Yerevan, March 16, 2023.

The secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on 
Monday downplayed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s refusal to attend last week’s 
summit of the leaders of ex-Soviet states making up the Russian-led military 

Imangali Tasmagambetov, who is due to visit Yerevan soon, claimed that Pashinian 
did not fly to Minsk for the summit last Thursday for merely “technical” reasons.

“In my view, it makes no sense to draw any categorical conclusions from this 
situation,” Tasmagambetov told the TASS news agency. “Armenia was and remains 
our ally.”

Pashinian’s boycott of the summit highlighted his government’s mounting tensions 
with the other CSTO member states and Russia in particular. Pashinian on Friday 
again accused the CSTO of not honoring its security commitments to Armenia. What 
is more, he did not rule out the possibility of eventually pulling his country 
out of his alliance.

Speaking on the eve of the Minsk summit, the Russian Foreign Ministry 
spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that Pashinian’s administration is planning a 
“radical change” of Armenia’s traditional geopolitical orientation at the behest 
of Western powers. The ministry had earlier accused it of “ruining” 
Russian-Armenian relations.

For his part, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed over the weekend the 
criticism of the CSTO voiced by Pashinian as well as other Armenian leaders. 
Peskov expressed hope that Yerevan will soon resume its “full-fledged 
participation in the organization.”

Earlier this year, Armenia also refused to participate in CSTO military 
exercises and boycotted a meeting of the defense ministers of the bloc’s member 

Armenian Authorities Seek To Dispossess Tsarukian
November 27, 2023
        • Naira Bulghadarian

Armenia - Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian speaks at an election 
campaign rally in Aragatsotn province, June 15, 2021.

The Armenian authorities have moved to confiscate hundreds of millions of 
dollars worth of assets belonging to Gagik Tsarukian, one of Armenia’s richest 
men leading a major opposition party.

The assets include the largest of Tsarukian’s companies and about 90 properties 
owned by him or members of his family. The authorities are also seeking to seize 
over 86 billion drams ($213 million) in revenue generated by them. All this may 
well account for most of the vast fortune made by the tycoon since the early 

The Office of the Prosecutor-General announced late last week that it has asked 
an Armenian court to approve the seizures in accordance with a controversial law 
that allows the authorities to confiscate assets deemed to have been acquired 
illegally. It said the court has already agreed to freeze them pending a verdict 
in the case.

A statement released by the law-enforcement agency did not publicize any 
evidence in support of its claims that Tsarukian and his family have amassed 
their wealth illegally. The tycoon’s lawyers were quick to reject the claims and 
insist that “the origin of Gagik Tsarukian’s assets is illegal.”

“There is weighty evidence of that, which will be presented to the court and the 
Office of the Prosecutor-General as soon as possible,” they said in a statement.

The lawyers declined to comment further when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian 
Service at the weekend. It thus remained unclear whether they see any political 
motives behind the case.

Armenia -- Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian arrives for a court 
hearing on his pre-trial arrest, September 25, 2020.

Tsarukian is the founding leader of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party 
(BHK) that had the second largest group in the country’s former parliament. It 
challenged Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and demanded his resignation even 
before the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Tsarukian was charged with vote buying and arrested in September 2020 just days 
before the outbreak of the war. The BHK leader, who rejected the accusations as 
politically motivated, was freed on bail one month later.

Like other opposition groups, the BHK blamed Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in 
the six-week war and tried to topple him. It failed to win any parliament seats 
in snap general elections held in June 2021. Tsarukian has kept a low profile 
since then.

The law invoked by the prosecutors allows them to seek asset forfeiture in case 
of having “sufficient grounds to suspect” that the market value of an 
individual’s properties exceeds their “legal income” by at least 50 million 
drams ($100,000). Armenian courts can allow the nationalization of such assets 
even if their owners are not found guilty of corruption or other criminal 

Over the past two years the prosecutors have petitioned courts to dispossess 
dozens of former officials, including ex-Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Robert 
Kocharian, and their relatives. So far there have been no court verdicts in any 
of those cases. Tsarukian is apparently the first person who risks losing his 
assets despite having never held any executive posts in government.

Armenia - A screenshot from an Aravot.am report on expensive property 
acquisitions by current Armenian officials, March 15, 2023.

Pashinian has repeatedly portrayed the law in question as a major 
anti-corruption measure that will help his administration recover “wealth stolen 
from the people.” Opposition figures counter, however, that Pashinian is simply 
keen to suppress dissent and cement his hold on power.

In November 2021, opposition lawmakers appealed to the Constitutional Court to 
declare the law unconstitutional. They said that it contradicts articles of the 
Armenian constitution guaranteeing the presumption of innocence and property 
rights. The court, dominated by judges installed by the current government, has 
still not ruled on the appeal.

Also, Pashinian is facing growing media allegations that members of his 
entourage themselves are enriching themselves or their cronies. In February this 
year, the prime minister publicly urged senior officials to sue publications 
“falsely” accusing them of illicit enrichment. In March, hackers hijacked the 
YouTube channel of an Armenian newspaper just as it was about to publish a video 
report detailing expensive property acquisitions by several senior government 
officials and pro-government lawmakers.

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