Will Putin come to Armenia?

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The Eurasian Economic Union plans to hold a summit in Yerevan on October 1. Usually, such an event involves the arrival of the President of Russia- the leader of the dominant country in the organization. But it is unknown whether Vladimir Putin plans to visit the Armenian capital. The author understands what existing contradictions between Armenia and Russia can prevent Putin’s visit to Yerevan.
Eurasianet (U.S.): Will Putin come to Armenia?

The Eurasian Economic Union will hold a summit next month in Yerevan. Usually, such an event involves the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the leader of the dominant bloc of the country. However, the event is less than three weeks away, and Putin’s arrival remains the subject of feverish guesses and speculations in Armenia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said that all the heads of state of the EAEU will be present. “A meeting was held recently and a consensus was reached that the heads of all member states, including Vladimir Putin, should be present at this meeting,” he told reporters on September 5.

But the Kremlin and the Russian embassy in Yerevan have not confirmed this information. In addition, opinions in both the pro-government and opposition media tend to suggest that the visit is not a solved issue at all. The opposition newspaper Jamanak quoted a source “close to the Russian Embassy” as saying that despite Kocharian’s statement, a decision on Putin’s participation in the Yerevan meeting has not yet been taken and that “the embassy is not preparing for the visit ».

A more pro-government analysis on the news site 1in.am was titled: “Who will lose if Putin doesn’t come?” The article concludes that Putin himself: “The event will be held in Yerevan, and if the summit is boycotted, the losing side will not be Armenia, but Russia. As a result of the Velvet Revolution, Russia has an opportunity to find a real, unique ally in the Caucasus and maybe even in the world. It is amazing that in some circles they are trying to destroy this possibility.

Pashinyan’s political allies also do not know whether Putin will come or not. According to Chirac Torosyan, a member of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Pashinyan’s “My Step” alliance also does not know this. “As a rule, heads of state take part in summits, but this is not dogma,” he told the newspaper “Jogovurd” on September 10. A representative of the president can also take part. We’ll see on October 1.”
Russia’s relations with Armenia have deteriorated since Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan came to power last year in a wave of popular protests. Although Pashinyan did not promise any significant geopolitical separation from Russia, and in some cases was even more sympathetic to Moscow than his predecessors, mutual suspicions remain.

Putin has not visited Armenia since 2015 when he attended events marking the centenary of the Armenian genocide. Russian officials avoid Armenia in principle: there are no reports of visits by high-ranking Russian officials on the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ web page on relations between Russia and Armenia Year. At the same time, there is no information about the April visit of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, which irritated many Armenians, who had the impression that Medvedev laughed at the way Pashinyan speaks Russian. Meanwhile, according to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, only Pashinyan visited Russia seven times as prime minister.

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Although the views of Russia and Armenia differ on many issues, there are suggestions in political circles that Putin’s suspension is currently connected with the case of former Armenian President Robert Kocharian. Kocharian, Pashinyan’s political opponent, is behind bars awaiting trial on charges of forcibly suppressing protests in 2008.

The Constitutional Court of Armenia last week ordered Kocharian’s release pending a trial scheduled for September 12, but he remained in custody.

Meanwhile, Putin does not hide his sympathies to Kocharian. On August 31, the Russian leader wrote a warm letter to the 65th anniversary of his former colleague: “By your many years of state activity you have earned the deserved respect among compatriots and abroad, made a significant contribution to the development of modern Armenia, to ensure security and stability in the Caucasus. We know you as a true friend of Russia, who has done a lot to strengthen allied relations between our states. I wish you, dear Robert Sedrakovic, good health, mental strength, and resilience.”

In his analytical article on this issue, 1in.am called Putin’s letter a provocation: “It is noteworthy that Putin is bringing another tension in Russian-Armenian relations a month before his Yerevan visit. Is it really a political signal that Putin will not come to Yerevan in October to participate in the EAEU summit, or the Russian president has made it clear to the Armenian authorities not to have high expectations of negotiations with him, especially since they will also discuss the issue of tariffs gas.” (On New Year’s Eve, Russia unexpectedly announced that it was raising gas prices for Armenia).

A number of Armenian media, sympathetic to Kocharian and friendly to Russia, suggested that Putin, if he came to Armenia, even intended to visit Kocharian in prison.

“If Vladimir Putin wants to visit Robert Kocharian in prison, he should be careful that we do not close the door behind him,” the well-known activist Daniel Ioannisyan wrote on his Facebook page. Meanwhile, the openly pro-Western opposition accused Pashinyan and My Step of being silent in response to Intimidation by Russia. “When the Russian President congratulates the person responsible for overthrowing the constitutional order, does it threaten sovereignty?” asked opposition lawmaker Armand Babajanyan at a session of parliament on September 10. “Or when the President of the Constitutional Court meets with the Russian ambassador, and we do not have information about this meeting, it threatens sovereignty?”
Babadzhanyan further noted that Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite former high-ranking officials who are under investigation in criminal cases in Armenia, and criticized the Russian government news site Sputnik Armenia for anti-government propaganda.