By Shakeh Avoyan
Ara Abrahamian, a Moscow-based ethnic Armenian tycoon, confirmed on Wednesday reports that he may win control of Armenian companies that will be handed over to Russia in payment for Yerevan’s $98 million debt.
Abrahamian, who owns one of Russia’s biggest diamond companies, said he has been negotiating with the Russian government on his possible management of some of the five Armenian enterprises covered by the planned equities-for-debt deal.
“This issue has really been discussed and the [Russian-Armenian] agreement will have a corresponding provision,” he told reporters in Yerevan. “But this project is a tentative one, and I am still unaware of the final conditions. The status of those enterprises has still to be clarified.”
Reports about Abrahamian’s involvement in the debt agreement surfaced in the Russian media in late August. “Nezavisimaya Gazeta,” a leading Moscow daily, accused a Russian government agency planning deal between the two countries of peddling the Armenian-born businessman’s interests. The paper said the Russian Agency for Management Systems, which oversees hi-tech defense industries, believes that Abrahamian’s involvement would “have a positive political resonance in Armenia.”
The most important of the five enterprise, a large thermal power plant in the central city of Hrazdan, is expected be transferred to RAO Unified Energy Systems, Russia’s biggest state-run power utility. The list also includes three research institutes that used to be part of the Soviet defense industry and an electronics factory in Yerevan.
Officials say the debt deal will likely be signed by the two governments early next month.
Abrahamian, who is reportedly close to Russian President Vladimir, arrived in Armenia on Wednesday at the head of a 350-strong delegation of his Union of Armenians of Russia and met with President Robert Kocharian. He said the visit, which will include a trip to Nagorno-Karabakh, is aimed at bolstering ties between Armenia and its big Russian Diaspora which has a large number of successful entrepreneurs. According to Abrahamian, the union will increase its humanitarian assistance to and promote Russian investments in the country.
Abrahamian denied speculation that he plans to support Kocharian’s reelection by urging scores of Armenian citizens living in Russia to vote for the latter in the run-up to the February presidential election. He claimed that despite “sympathizing” with Kocharian, he will not be campaigning for the incumbent’s victory.