MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is “concerned” that Armenia’s new leadership is making what he called “political” moves against pro-Moscow former political leaders who have been targeted in an anticorruption campaign.
“The events of recent days … run counter to recent statements by the new leadership of Armenia to the effect that it has no intention to persecute its predecessors for political motives,” declared Foreign Minister Lavrov.
“As an ally of Yerevan, Russia has always been interested in the stability of the Armenian state,” he said. “Therefore, what is happening cannot fail to worry us, including in terms of the normal work of those organizations in the [former Soviet] CIS space in which Armenia participates.”
“In the last few days, we have repeatedly conveyed our concerns to the Armenian leadership. We expect that the situation will develop along a constructive path after all,” added Lavrov.
Lavrov referred to the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) whose Armenian secretary general, Yuri Khachaturov, was charged on July 27 with overthrowing Armenia’s “constitutional order” in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008.
An Armenian law-enforcement agency brought the same accusation against Robert Kocharian, who was the country’s president at the time. A court in Yerevan allowed Kocharian’s arrest while granting bail to Khachaturov. The latter was Armenia’s deputy defense minister during the March 2008 breakup of opposition protests in Yerevan, which left eight protesters and two police servicemen dead.
Both Khachaturov and Kocharian deny the coup charges. The ex-president has accused Armenia’s new government of waging a political “vendetta” against him.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that it has formally asked the other CSTO members to “start a process of replacing the secretary general.” A senior Russian government official called the move “amazingly unprofessional.” The Russian Foreign Ministry said, for its part, that Yerevan must formally “recall” Khachaturov before asking the other CSTO states to replace him.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry effectively dismissed the criticism, saying that its actions are in conformity with the CSTO statutes.
Russia has rarely made public statements critical of Armenia in the past. The two nations have maintained close political, military and economic ties ever since the break-up of the Soviet Union.