By Artur Terian in Moscow
Armenian enterprises that will be handed over to the Russian government in payment for Armenia’s $98 million debt may end up under the control of Russia’s richest ethnic Armenian businessman, according to a leading Moscow daily.
The “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” newspaper claimed in its Wednesday issue that a Russian government agency involved in the equities-for-debt deal between the two countries is peddling interests of Ara Abrahamian, an Armenian-born diamond dealer who is reportedly close to President Vladimir Putin. Abrahamian is a leading shareholder in the Soglasie diamond company and the founding chairman of the Union of Armenians of Russia (SAR), the largest community organization.
The paper said the Russian Agency for Management Systems (RASU), which oversees hi-tech defense industries, has written to the Russian ministry of economy suggesting that the Armenian enterprises be managed by Soglasie. The RASU argued that this would “have a positive political resonance in Armenia and earn SAR support of both the Armenian government and parliament.”
Abrahamian could not be reached for comment throughout Thursday. Officials from the Russian prime minister’s office and the RASU were also unavailable for comment.
The equities-for-debt deal between Moscow and Yerevan was finalized during Russian Minister of Industry, Science and Technology Ilya Klebanov’s visit to Armenia last month. Representatives of the two governments said Russia will write off Armenia’s entire debt in return for obtaining controlling stakes in four Armenian enterprises. The most important of them is the Hrazdan thermal power plant, the biggest in Armenia. The list also includes the Yerevan-based Mars electronics factory and two research institutes that used to be part of the Soviet defense industry.
“Nezavisimaya Gazeta,” which is linked to the Moscow establishment, said the fate of those enterprises will now be decided by the RASU which is “one step away from Abrahamian.” “In essence, Russia is ready to give its enterprises to a private individual as a gift,” the paper wrote, criticizing the Kremlin for what it sees as an unfavorable deal for Russia. It also alleged that the RASU’s recently sacked director, Vladimir Simonov, has lobbied for Abhramian’s takeover of the Armenian companies out of his personal interest.