By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian Communist Party (HKK), a major pro-Russian opposition group, has put on hold its long-running campaign for Armenia’s accession to the Russia-Belarus union in view of serious differences between the two east Slavic states.
The HKK first secretary, Vladimir Darpinian, said on Thursday that the Communists have decided not to raise the matter with their partners in the newly formed 16-party opposition coalition for the time being.
“This is an important issue for us. But we are not raising it urgently because difficulties have emerged in relations between the two states,” Darpinian told RFE/RL, alluding to a recent diplomatic spat between Moscow and Minsk. In the meantime, he added, the HKK will concentrate on its two other keys aims: Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic and nationalization of “strategic” industries.
The crisis was caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remark that Belarus should either become a part of Russia or stop seeking closer integration with his country. The offer was rejected as “humiliating” by Belarus’s authoritarian and anti-Western leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko.
The row has put Armenian proponents of the union in a difficult position, with the Communists accusing Putin of trying to break it up by setting unacceptable conditions for Belarus.
Still, Darpinian said he hopes that the Russian and Belarusian governments will eventually patch up their differences, which would allow the HKK to bring the issue back to its political agenda. He claimed that virtually all left-wing forces making up the opposition grouping, including the People’s and Hanrapetutyun parties, approve in principle the idea of joining the union some time in the future.
Neither party has publicly endorsed the idea so far, however. Nor did they ever take part in Communist-led demonstrations in support of Russia-Belarus.
Speaking about Communist expectations from the opposition alliance, Darpinian said the HKK is in favor of fielding a joint candidate capable of defeating President Robert Kocharian in the February election. But he indicated that the 16 parties will not necessarily agree on who should be that candidate. In any case, the 71-year-old leader said, the Communists will join forces with several other smaller left-wing groups.