Minister of High-Technology Industry Mkhitar Hayrapetyan

YEREVAN — Minister of High-Technology Industry Mkhitar Hayrapetyan told the Armenpress news agency late on Tuesday that the retransmission of Russia’s leading state TV Channel One has been “temporarily stopped” because of its outstanding debt to an Armenian government agency that controls digital broadcast frequencies. He did not disclose the amount of the debt, saying only that it has been accumulated over the last two and a half months.

Although Hayrapetyan said the ban applies to the national digital package accessible to viewers across Armenia, the Channel One broadcasts were also blocked by the country’s cable TV networks belonging to private telecom operators. The latter did not explain on Wednesday their decisions to join the ban.

Channel One and the Russian government did not immediately react to the ban announced one day after the broadcaster aired a talk show during which senior Russian lawmakers strongly criticized  Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The 20-minute segment also featured footage of ongoing antigovernment protests in Armenia and riot police beating up an opposition parliamentarian.

“Every day that Mr. Pashinyan remains in power is a humiliation for Russia in the Caucasus and the entire East,” declared one of those lawmakers, Konstantin Zatulin.

Zatulin, who was banned from visiting Armenia two years ago, accused Pashinyan of breaking up the Russian-Armenian alliance and “betraying” the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and denounced his latest territorial concessions to Azerbaijan. “This was the final straw for the Armenian people,” he said.

“He is behaving brazenly,” another Russian parliamentarian said, referring to Pashinyan’s implicit claims that Moscow helped Azerbaijan to prepare for the 2020 war in Karabakh.

In March this year, Yerevan banned the retransmission of a daily political talk show aired by another Russian channel, Russia-1, because of its pro-Kremlin host Vladimir Solovyov’s repeated criticism of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Armenia’s government-controlled Television and Radio Broadcasting Network accused Solovyov and some guests on his daily programs of violating a 2020 Russian-Armenian agreement that allowed Russia-1, Channel One and another Russian channel, Kultura, to continue to broadcast their programs to the South Caucasus country. Yerevan alleged a similar violation last October after Channel One aired an hour-long program disparaging Pashinyan.

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