By Armen Zakarian
The influential Russian Community Party (KPRF) has promised its Armenian allies to take resolute steps to defuse anti-Armenian sentiment in Russia which has triggered a spate of violent incidents in recent months.
According to Armenian Communist leader Vladimir Darpinian, the KPRF leadership last week instructed the heads of the vast country's Communist-controlled regions to stave off more racially motivated attacks on ethnic Armenians.
"In effect, the Communist governors were instructed to deal with the matter and not allow any worsening of Russian-Armenian relations," Darpinian told RFE/RL on Monday. "This is all the more important given the fact that Armenia is Russia's most loyal friend in this region."
Darpinian said the directive was issued during a meeting in Moscow of a KPRF-led body coordinating activities of the Communist parties of former Soviet republics. It appears to have been primarily addressed to Aleksandr Tkachov, the Communist governor of the Krasnodar Region in southern Russia -- the focal point of anti-Armenian violence. Tkachov's plans to expel hundreds of thousands of "illegal immigrants" from the Caucasus and Central Asia stoked long-running ethnic tensions there.
In April, several dozen Russian youths vandalized gravestones and monuments at the Armenian cemetery of Krasnodar. Attacks on local Armenians have since continued unabated despite the regional administration's repeated pledges to enforce law and order. Last month, hundreds of angry youths reportedly rampaged through the streets of the regional town of Slavyansk-na-Kubani, beating its Armenian residents and smashing their property.
The government of Armenia has so far refrained from openly criticizing the Russian authorities over those incidents. But Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL recently that Yerevan is "very concerned" about the continuing attacks and regularly conveys its worries to Moscow through "diplomatic channels."
Darpinian, who is the first secretary of the staunchly pro-Russian Armenian Communist Party (HKK), admitted on Monday that the anti-Armenian sentiment has already "somewhat undermined" warm relations between the two nations. He claimed that it is being exploited by unspecified "pro-Western forces" in Armenia.
Darpinian, who attended the Moscow meeting of the Communist parties, also said that the ex-Soviet Communists agreed to reinvigorate their campaign for the strengthening and expansion of the Russia-Belarus union. The Armenian Communists last month effectively suspended their long-running campaign for Armenia's accession to the union, citing recent friction between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his anti Western and autocratic Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr Lukashenko.