RFE/RL Armenian Service – 01/30/2024


Pashinian Accused Of Planning Another Concession To Turkey, Azerbaijan

        • Astghik Bedevian
        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia - A picture of the Armenian coat of arms against the background of 
Yerevan and Mount Ararat, 5Jul2011.

Opposition leaders accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Tuesday of being 
ready to make another concession to Azerbaijan and Turkey after one of his top 
political allies called for a change of Armenia’s national anthem and coat of 

Both state symbols as well as Armenia’s national flag were inherited from a 
short-lived Armenian republic that existed from 1918-1920. They were slightly 
edited before being adopted by the country’s first post-Communist parliament in 

In a Telegram post, parliament speaker Alen Simonian described the “Mer 
Hayrenik” (Our Fatherland) anthem as “alien” and said it must be replaced by 
genuinely “Armenian” song corresponding to “our state and Armenian music.”

Simonian went on to mock the coat of arms that consists of a lion and an eagle 
holding a shield depicting Mount Ararat and the emblems of four royal dynasties 
that ruled ancient and medieval Armenian kingdoms.

The emblematic mountain located in modern-day Turkey is shown rising above a sea 
that presumably symbolizes the biblical Deluge. Simonian scoffed at this scene 
as well as the emblem of the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia that existed in the 
12-14th centuries in what is now southeastern Turkey.

Turkey - Armenian parliament speaker Alen Simonian meets his Turkish counterpart 
in Ankara, May 4, 2023.

Pashinian likewise criticized the Armenian coat of arms last year, saying that 
it underlines a “dichotomy between historical Armenia and real Armenia.”

Reacting to Simonian’s comments, Armenian opposition lawmakers claimed that 
Pashinian’s government is planning to scrap the state symbols in order to 
placate Ankara.

“This is another demand of the Turkish-Azerbaijani duo,” said Gegham Manukian of 
the main opposition Hayastan alliance. He said that the two Turkic allies are 
trying to force Yerevan to erase any reference to millennia-old Armenian 
presence in their current territory.

“They need a small state which is detached from its roots and with which they 
could do anything they want,” added Manukian.

Hrach Hakobian, a parliament deputy from the ruling Civil Contract party and 
Pashinian’s brother-in-law, ruled out any “coercion” from Baku or Ankara. He 
said the questions raised by Simonian need to be openly debated.

A spokeswoman for Simonian insisted, meanwhile, that the speaker expressed his 
personal view and that there is no bill in circulation calling for the kind of 
changes that were advocated by him. Such changes would have to be put on a 

Russia - Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinyan are seen during a visit to the Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg, 
December 26, 2023.

Simonian’s statement came on the heels of Pashinian’s calls for the adoption of 
a new Armenian constitution reflecting the “new geopolitical environment” in the 
region. Critics believe that the premier wants to get rid of a preamble to 
Armenia’s current constitution enacted in 1995. The preamble makes an indirect 
reference to a 1989 declaration on Armenia’s unification with Nagorno-Karabakh 
and calls for international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman 

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan acknowledged last week Azerbaijan has objected 
to this constitutional introduction during talks on a peace treaty with Armenia. 
But both he and Pashinian allies said that the Armenian leadership is not 
seeking to change the constitution under Azerbaijani pressure.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry claimed on Monday that the Armenian 
constitution contains “encroachments on the territorial integrity and 
sovereignty of Azerbaijan.” It said Yerevan should take concrete steps to 
eliminate them.

Arusyak Julhakian, another lawmaker representing Pashinian’s party, accused Baku 
of trying to whip up political tensions in Armenia with such statements.

Fitch Sees Armenia’s Continued Dependence On Russia

        • Robert Zargarian

U.S. -- Fitch Ratings logo in Lower Manhattan, New York, June 24, 2016.

The Armenian economy will remain heavily dependent on Russia in the foreseeable 
future, according to credit rating agency Fitch.

“Armenia's economy is highly dependent on Russia for trade and energy, and Fitch 
does not expect meaningful diversification away from Russia in the near term,” 
it said in a weekend statement that reaffirmed its “BB-“ rating for the country.

Fitch noted that Russian-Armenian trade has increased dramatically since the 
start of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“Armenia continues to implement Western sanctions targeted at Russian entities 
within its banking sector,” it said. “Nevertheless, goods exports to Russia 
increased by nearly 300 percent since 2021, and Russia accounted for 51 percent 
of exports and 30 percent of imports in [the first nine months of 2023.]”

Russia accounted for more than one-third of Armenia’s foreign trade in 
January-November 2023, with bilateral commercial exchange rising by over 40 
percent to $6.3 billion, according to Armenian government data.

Armenian re-exports of used cars, consumer electronics and other 
Western-manufactured goods remained the main driving force behind this growth. 
They are included in overall Armenian exports to Russia that totaled about $3.2 
billion in that period, up by 50 percent year on year. These and other cash 
inflows from Russia are a key reason why the Armenian economy was on course to 
expand by over 8 percent last year.

Economy Minister Vahan Kerobian said recently that his government is trying to 
“diversify” Armenia’s foreign trade by helping local manufacturers find new 
export markets. He said they should export “products of high standards and 
quality” that can find buyers “in many countries of the world and not just a 
small circle of countries.” It is not clear just how the government will go 
about achieving this declared objective.

Russian-Armenian commercial ties have been deepening despite Yerevan’s strained 
relationship with Moscow noted by Fitch. Citing food safety concerns, a Russian 
government agency blocked the import of many food products from Armenia for more 
than a week in November. Observers believe that Moscow thus underlined its 
strong economic leverage against Armenia to warn Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
against further reorienting the country towards the West.

Annual Corruption Survey Finds Little Change In Armenia

        • Nane Sahakian

Germany -- Microphone cables dangle over a logo of Transparency International 
(TI) during a press conference in Berlin, 23Sep2008

Transparency International has barely upgraded Armenia’s position in its annual 
survey of corruption perceptions around the world, again noting a lack of 
significant improvement in the country.

Armenia ranks 62nd out of 180 countries and territories evaluated in the 
Berlin-based watchdog’s 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released on 
Tuesday. It shared 63rd place with Romania in the previous CPI released a year 

The South Caucasus state’s CPI “score,” measured on a 100-point scale, rose from 
46 to 47 over the past year. The Armenian government had pledged to have it 
gradually raised to 55 in its three-year anti-corruption strategy approved in 

Varuzhan Hoktanian, the head of Transparency International’s Armenian partner 
organization, downplayed the slight improvement, saying that it is within the 
CPI survey’s 2.5-point margin of error and only shows continuing “stagnation” in 
the government’s declared fight against corruption.

“The global [CPI] average is 43 … So I say this every year: if a country’s CPI 
is below 50 it means corruption is a serious problem there,” Hoktanian told 

“In the two years following the 2018 Velvet Revolution, Armenia experienced 
significant democratic and anti-corruption reforms,” Transparency International 
said in a report attached to the latest CPI rankings. “However, progress against 
corruption has stalled, primarily due to the limited implementation of these new 

Armenia - Prime Minsiter Nikol Pashinian inspects a newly renovated school gym 
in Lori province, January 3, 2024.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly claimed to have eliminated 
“systemic corruption” in Armenia. However, members of his entourage are 
increasingly accused by Armenian media of enriching themselves or their cronies 
and breaking their anti-corruption promises given in 2018. There are also 
growing questions about integrity in public procurement administered by the 
current government.

About a year ago, Pashinian urged senior Armenian officials to sue media outlets 
“falsely” accusing them of illicit enrichment. Shortly afterwards, hackers 
hijacked the YouTube channel of the Yerevan newspaper Aravot just as it was 
about to publish a video report detailing expensive property acquisitions by 
several senior government officials and pro-government parliamentarians.

In December, the Armenian parliament controlled by Pashinian’s Civil Contract 
party effectively fired the head of a state anti-corruption watchdog who 
investigated many pro-government lawmakers suspected of illicit enrichment, 
conflict of interest or other corrupt practices. The National Assembly ignored a 
joint statement in support of the official, Haykuhi Harutiunian, issued by 
several Armenian civic organizations.

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