Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian tells "Golos Armenii" that the Armenian government "feels confident" despite recent opposition inroads on its positions. Sarkisian also believes that claims about the growing involvement of foreign powers in Armenia's political life ahead of the elections are "extremely exaggerated." At least, he says, Russia and the United States are unlikely to back Robert Kocharian's challengers during next year's presidential elections. Both countries have no reason to be unhappy with the Kocharian administration, according to him.
"Azg" reports that tensions continue to run high in the Russian town of Krasnoarmeisk following the weekend attacks on local Armenians. The paper is concerned that the violence could be a prelude to a massive government crackdown on Armenians illegally living and working in Russia.
In an interview with "Azg," Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian accuses Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev of violating the confidentiality of and spreading "disinformation" about the Karabakh peace process. Ghukasian also dismisses as "absurd" the idea of exchanging Lachin with Meghri. He says a land swap could only take place between Karabakh and Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, Hrant Khachatrian, the leader of the Union for Constitutional Rights (SIM), a small Armenian opposition party, continues to insist, in an "Aravot" interview, that he is eligible to stand in the August 11 presidential elections in Karabakh. Khachatrian views Karabakh as a both de jure and de facto part of Armenia, citing the example of Kocharian's registration as an Armenian presidential candidate in 1998.
"Orran" says that Kocharian gave the opposition another cause for action on Wednesday when he launched strong verbal attacks against Vagharshak Harutiunian, a senior member of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party and the former defense minister. Kocharian said that Harutiunian was not competent and experienced enough to hold that senior post and was sacked in May 2000 after "numerous complaints" from top military officers. But the paper wonders why Harutiunian had been named defense minister by Kocharian in 1999 if the latter was so really unfit.