By Shakeh Avoyan and Hrach Melkumian
About two dozen intellectuals picketed the Russian embassy in Yerevan on Wednesday to condemn Sunday’s anti-Armenian rampage in a town near Moscow.
The silent protesters, most of them artists, carried a banner that denounced as “fascist” the ethnically motivated attacks on Armenian residents of the town of Krasnoarmeisk which left more than 20 people injured. Police barred them from moving too close the embassy building in the city center.
“We believe that what happened in Krasnoarmeisk was directed against the Armenian people,” said one of the organizers of the action, sculptor Ara Shiraz. “It smacked of Sumgait,” he added, referring to the infamous 1988 pogrom in the Azerbaijani city close to Baku.
Several dozen local Armenians were massacred at the time by armed Azerbaijani mobs furious with the unfolding campaign for Karabakh’s reunification with Armenia. Although nobody was killed in Krasnoarmeisk pogrom, it appeared to follow a similar pattern, with rampaging local youths attacking Armenians on the street and bursting into Armenian homes. Eyewitnesses said Russian police did not attempt to stop the violence which lasted for about four hours. It was the most serious of anti-Armenian attacks reported in Russia in recent months.
“This is becoming a pattern,” Shiraz told reporters. “It wasn’t something done by certain hooligans.”
Other protesters similarly accused Russian regional authorities of encouraging such attacks. They also criticized the Armenian government for failing to react to the mass beatings. “Why is our government being silent?” asked one of them, painter Haghtanak Shahumian.
Official Yerevan has so far stopped short of blaming the Russian government, anxious not to worsen the close Russian-Armenian relationship.
Speaking to RFE/RL on Wednesday, parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian said he believes that the racist attacks were not sanctioned by the Russian authorities and should not be construed as such. But he added that Moscow must prevent more such attacks because they “cast shadow on our friendly relations.”