Armenian Ambassador Vladimir Karapetyan and the head of Yerevan’s Nor Nork district, Tigran Ter-Margaryan, visit Bucha, May 31, 2024.

Russia Condemns Armenian Officials’ Trip to Ukrainian Town

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — The Russian Foreign Ministry has sent a note of protest to Yerevan over pro-Ukrainian statements reportedly made by two Armenian officials during a visit to a town near Kyiv late last month.

Armenia’s ambassador to Ukraine, Vladimir Karapetyan, and the chief executive of Yerevan’s northern Nor Nork district, Tigran Ter-Margaryan, traveled to Bucha on May 31 amid a continuing deterioration of Russian-Armenian relations. They met with the town’s mayor, delivered humanitarian aid to local hospitals and lit candles at a memorial to Bucha residents killed following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

“We are proud of the courage of the Ukrainian people who defend their freedom and independence on the battlefield,” Bucha’s municipal council quoted Ter-Margaryan as saying in a statement on the trip.

“The city of Yerevan and Nor Nork district will always support Bucha and other communities affected by Russian aggression. This humanitarian aid is only a small part of our solidarity,” he added, according to the statement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, condemned on Sunday, June 9, the “overtly unfriendly step on the part of official Yerevan.”

“In connection with the transfer of aid for the needs of the [Armed Forces of Ukraine] and the inadmissible statements made there against Russia, a note of protest was sent to the Foreign Ministry of Armenia,” she said in written comments posted on the ministry website.

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Ter-Margaryan is affiliated with the pro-Western Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party allied to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Yerevan’s pro-government Mayor Tigran Avinyan appointed him as head of the Nor Nork administration last fall as part of a power-sharing deal struck by Hanrapetutyun and Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party.

“We did not expect anything else from a figure like Tigran Ter-Margaryan… It is unfortunate that the Armenian authorities are in solidarity with this,” added Zakharova.

Bucha has become a stop for international visitors to Ukraine because of atrocities committed against its civilian residents in February and March 2022. Moscow denies accusations of executions, rapes and torture by Russian troops that occupied the town for 33 days.

Speaker Hits Back

Armenian leaders were until recently careful not to openly criticize the Russian invasion. Pashinyan voiced such criticism during a February visit to Germany, underscoring Yerevan’s deepening rift with Moscow.

Alen Simonyan, the Armenian parliament speaker and a close Pashinyan ally, reiterated the criticism in April when he attended and addressed a meeting of his counterparts from European Union member states held in Spain. Senior Russian lawmakers reacted furiously to Simonian’s speech, demanding an official explanation from the Armenian parliament.

Parliament speaker Alen Simonian on Friday dismissed a senior Russian official’s warning that Armenia will cause irreparable damage to its relations with Russia if it moves closer to Western powers and shares “sensitive” information with them.

In an interview with the Russian TASS news agency published on June 5, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin suggested that the Armenian government is trying to deepen security ties with the West at the expense of the South Caucasus nation’s traditional alliance with Russia.

“Rash decisions that will give Westerners full access to national databases and information sensitive to the country’s security … could make it objectively impossible [for Armenia] to return to joint efforts to build a common defense space with Russia and other CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] allies,” he warned.

Simonyan, who is a key member of Pashinyan’s political team, countered that Armenia is not seeking to join another military alliance or host Western troops on its territory.

“What information could we convey [to the West?]” he told journalists. “It’s absurd. Enough with such rhetoric about us, enough with threatening us directly and indirectly.”

Simonian also brushed aside Galuzin’s claim that there are no “viable alternatives” to Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Russians, he said, should clarify instead “what obligations they have [to Armenia] both as a CSTO partner and a party to Russian-Armenian treaties.”

Armenian leaders regularly accuse Russia and other CSTO allies of not honoring their security commitments to Armenia. Over the past year, Armenia has boycotted high-level meetings, military exercises and other activities of the CSTO in what Pashinyan described in February as an effective suspension of its membership in the military alliance of six ex-Soviet states. Pashinyan said afterwards that Yerevan could leave the CSTO altogether.

 

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