YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has downplayed problems in Yerevan’s relations with Moscow, describing them as a “work process in its natural course.”
Answering questions from citizens in a live Facebook broadcast late on Sunday, Pashinian also announced his upcoming visit to Moscow during which he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He gave no indications of the date of the planned meeting, but said it will take place soon.
“This will be our third meeting, and I am convinced that we will discuss numerous issues that are on the agenda of our relations and will find solutions to numerous problems,” said the head of the Armenian government, stressing that contacts with the Russian side take place at different levels.
“Of course, I don’t mean to insist that all possible problems will be solved, but I can surely say that our natural cooperation continues. And I am convinced that it will be continued in its natural way.”
Some analysts have recently suggested that Russia was irked by several moves by the new Armenian government that included the prosecution of former president Robert Kocharian and several other senior former officials on charges related to the deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in 2008. Among those charged with ‘overthrowing constitutional order’ is also Yuri Khachaturov, a former deputy defense minister of Armenia who currently chairs the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization.
In July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced the prosecutions, arguing that they run counter to the new Armenian leadership’s earlier pledges not to “persecute its predecessors for political motives.” Lavrov repeated his concern over “investigation in Armenia of events that happened 10 years ago”, but added that he considered it to be Yerevan’s “internal affair.”
Pashinian, who played a key role in the 2008 protests as an oppositionist, downplayed the Russian criticism on August 10. He said Moscow should “adapt” to the new political realities of Armenia.
Speculation about souring Armenian-Russian relations increased last week when, according to the Kremlin’s official website, Russian President Putin telephoned Kocharian on August 31 to congratulate him on his 64th birthday anniversary.
The Kremlin reported no other details in its official readout of the phone call that came two weeks after Kocharian pledged to return to active politics and challenge the current Armenian government.
In another development the Russian Interfax news agency reported on Friday that Moscow had refused to extradite another former Armenian defense minister Mikael Harutiunian, who is thought to live in Russia, to Armenia on the grounds that he is also a Russian citizen. A spokesman for Armenian prosecutors effectively denied the report, however, saying that they are unaware of the whereabouts of Harutiunian, who is wanted in Armenia on charges stemming from his alleged role in the 2008 post-election crackdown.