168 Zham, Armenia
March 4 2019
Civil Contract and its leader are perceived as the reincarnation of a primitive version of the PANM
Interview with Robert Kocharyan
[Armenian News note: the below is translated from Armenian]
Azeri president 'easily outplayed' Armenian PM on Karabakh
[168 Zham] Mr. President, Karabakh settlement is one of the most burning issues on the political agenda today. It is not clear whether negotiations are taking place or not. At the same time, there are concerns among experts that some secret deal is taking shape behind the back of the society. What do you think is happening? What expectations can there be regarding [Karabakh] settlement in the near future?
[Kocharyan] Negotiations are certainly underway, no matter how [Armenian Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinyan may be trying to disguise them under different explanations. However, the fact that Pashinyan is zealously trying to shrug off the negotiations is more suspicious than the fact of negotiations proper. Society is unaware of the authorities' position on Karabakh settlement, since it has not been voiced so far, and this is what causes concern. How can one conduct successful negotiations without a formulated position? Negotiations are not idle gatherings, but a tool to consolidate success achieved. There are a number of fundamental conditions in Karabakh settlement that require a clear-cut approach on the part of the authorities before negotiations start.
It is obvious that [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev has easily outplayed Pashinyan. The Dushanbe lift talks have actually buried the Vienna and St Petersburg agreements aimed at consolidating the trust mechanisms on the contact line, which were beneficial for us. And these [agreements] were the price that Azerbaijan was paying for unleashing the April war [four-day fighting in Karabakh in 2016], in which we lost more than 100 people.
It does not matter what made the prime minister act like that – a conscious choice or incompetence. In both cases, it is a big mistake. The Armenian side has generated high expectations both in Azerbaijan and among the mediators in terms of their readiness to make concessions. And, therefore, I think that the next proposals by the [OSCE] Minsk Group [that acts as a mediator in the conflict] will not be quite pleasant.
[168 Zham] Another question in this regard: There is much talk in the media and social networks that your arrest is somehow related to the impending resolution to the Karabakh problem. As if, since you are in prison, the authorities will make a deal. Perhaps you are aware of this from the media, as well as of the "Bolton plan" (if it actually exists). Do you think it is a "conspiracy theory" or something real?
[Kocharyan] Nothing can be ruled out with these authorities. Anyway, I will hamper any attempt of "ceding" Karabakh regardless of where I may be. I am sure that all those, who see Karabakh as part of the Armenian identity, will do the same. Incidentally, this is what the prime minister and most of his team lack. They have nothing in common with the independence of Artsakh [Karabakh] and the military success and they hate anyone, who fought for this victory. That is why society must control every step they take regarding the Karabakh problem. It is impossible to trust the prime minister's contradictory statements anyway.
Russian gas price already up
[168 Zham] The problem of the price of Russian gas has not been resolved for a long time now. Despite the prime minister's announcement late last year that the problem had been resolved in principle – the gas price would not increase for consumers – it turned out, however, that negotiations are still under way. What do you think is happening in reality? Can judgments be made about the level of the Armenian-Russian relations taking into account the duration of the negotiations? In your opinion, how will this issue be resolved?
[Kocharyan] The issue has really been resolved in principle – the price of gas has gone up. Armenian consumers will pay for this increase directly or indirectly regardless of the authorities' attempts to present the situation in a different light. However, I would not describe the entire complex of inter-state relations only by this circumstance. The authorities will strive to maintain good relations with Russia because of the lack of a more acceptable choice for them and not because of their convictions. This will lead to inconsistency, vagueness, and eclecticism during the implementation of foreign policy issues. This situation can already be observed today. The thing is that the philosophy of the new Armenian government and the Russian elite are diametrically different and this circumstance will always be present in bilateral relations. We are dealing with [George] Soros' disciples who, have unfortunately poor knowledge and understanding of Russia and its culture.
Cabinet programme 'collection of slogans', disappointment to follow
[168 Zham] Are you familiar with the government programme? What is your assessment?
[Kocharyan] Yes, I familiarised myself with it. It is a programme about the absence of a programme and it is simply ridiculous to speak about it being a revolutionary programme with a 5 per-cent economic growth. It is a collection of slogans and desires that reveals the total inability and incompetence of the ruling party to assume concrete and ambitious obligations towards the country's breakthrough development and improvement of the quality of our fellow citizens' life. This is stated by everyone who knows a bit of economy. The authorities totally failed to understand that the 'revolution' is the worst possible brand from the point of view of the country's investment attractiveness. And the cause of poverty is not in people's heads, but rather in the miserable mentality of the authorities. Unfortunately, there was no constructive debate on this issue in the National Assembly [Parliament], because the prime minister's morbid attitude towards any criticism. Thus, welcome to a new reality.
[168 Zham] Do you think that the sentiments within society are changing? What do you think will happen in the near future?
[Kocharyan] People's enthusiasm generated from the revolutionary euphoria is apparently being replaced with a disappointment from unfulfilled expectations. As social psychology says, in such cases, as a rule, euphoria transforms into anger or apathy. A feeling of deception emerges and people naturally start looking for culprits. Usually, those who people linked their high expectations to, become the culprits. This is what happened after the 1991 presidential election and at that time, the euphoria was replaced with hatred towards the Pan-Armenian National Movement [PANM]. Time will show how processes will unfold now. The approval rating of the authorities will most likely collapse in autumn to an extent that the issue of their legitimacy will become topical. What will happen next? A hangover with all the feelings peculiar to such a state.
[168 Zham] New charges have been brought against you in connection with the testimony given by [businesswoman] Silva Hambardzumyan. What is your assessment of the charges? After all, they are in no way related to the main accusation.
[Kocharyan] The new accusation seems to be a script of a cheap grotesque comedy written in the SIS [Special Investigative Service] where the protagonist is an omnipresent lady with a blemished reputation. I had no idea about the existence of this lady and her affairs. Moreover, none of the persons involved in this "case" have confirmed her fairy tale testimony. I think the authorities have invented this accusation and linked it to the 1 March with one purpose only – to influence the established opinion within society about political persecution against me.
As to the alleged charges of "overturning the constitutional order", I must repeat that it is an absolute nonsense. Ninety per cent of all the 76 volumes of the accusation have nothing to do with Article 300.1 of the Criminal Code, which, by the way, did not exist back in March 2008, and that is why it is impossible to apply it. At the same time, this is the issue of my immunity, since my actions stemmed exclusively from the powers of the president.
I had time to familiarise myself with the materials of the accusation and I did not find a single thing that could incriminate me, [ex-defence ministers] Mikael Harutyunyan and Seyran Ohanyan, and [former head of the Yerevan garrison and former chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces] Yuri Khachaturov. Those, who ordered and fabricated this "criminal case", are committing a grave crime and will undoubtedly be punished. There is even no hint of justice in what is taking place. It is a classical political vendetta.
[168 Zham] How would you comment on the charges brought against your son and the case in general?
[Kocharyan] It is an absolutely fabricated accusation. The government is deprived of morality and resorts to various tricks to engage me in some corruption cases. That is why they have made a target out of my family, of course, in the context of my political persecution. Their intentions became clear back in summer, along with the publication of the scandalous wiretapped conversations. Such lawlessness took place in Armenia only in the 1990s under the PANM, when political opponents were dealt with shortly, up to their physical destruction, while the persecution of their relatives was a common thing.
[168 Zham] Are you familiar with [first Armenian President] Levon Ter-Petrosyan's statements that Pashinyan is not his godson and that they are not cooperating closely? How would you assess his statements?
[Kocharyan] They are very similar in their viewpoints, work style, temper, and level of cynicism. This similarity immediately catches the eye, explaining the large number of publications on their close collaboration. And it is not important at all how often they communicate with each other. The Civil Contract together with its leader [Pashinyan] are all the same perceived as the reincarnation of a primitive version of the PANM.
Pashinyan playing on 'people's sincere feelings'
[168 Zham] How would you assess the march on 1 March and the prime minister's speech on that day?
[Kocharyan] Unfortunately, we again witness how the prime minister is once again trying to play on people's sincere feelings. The irony of the situation is that the main culprits of the 1 March tragedy [when 10 people were killed as a result of post-election unrest] have become the main exploiters of the emotional consequences of those events. Perhaps, the sense of guilt for what they have done haunts their subconsciousness and even 11 years on, it does not allow them to repent and be open for reconciliation. It is all according to Freud's teaching. They continue to use the bitterness of the loss of the relatives and friends of the 10 victims as a tool to achieve their political aims.
It seems that the polarisation of society, the creation of permanent hotbeds of internal tension and confrontation, have become the essence of the activities of the Armenian authorities. It will not bring about any good.
[168 Zham] But still, last July, you announced that you were returning to big politics and were going to actively participate in all political processes. Have your plans changed?
[Kocharyan] No, they have not changed, of course. I do not give up my intentions and plans easily, moreover under pressure.
[168 Zham] What are you doing these days?
[Kocharyan] I read a lot and, of course, I do physical exercises to stay in good shape. I started writing the continuation of my book.