By Armen Zakarian
Ara Abrahamian, an influential Russian-Armenian businessman, pledged Monday to invest hundreds of millions dollars in Armenia's struggling economy in the next several years.
Abrahamian said $50 million of that will be invested by the end of next year. "The first $50 million is the initial phase of my project which we must be able to implement from 2003 to 2004," he told RFE/RL in an interview.
Abrahamian is already involved in the construction of a new commercial district in central Yerevan, a major real estate development project. He would not specify other economic areas of his interest.
The Moscow-based tycoon, who has extensive interests in the Russian diamond industry, hopes that his investment pledges will reflect positively on electoral chances of a Diaspora-linked party which teamed up with him last month. The small Ramkavar Azatakan party (HRAK) increasingly emerges as the ambitious tycoon's main political support base in Armenia, seeking to win seats in the parliament for the first time ever.
The HRAK is sponsored by an eponymous group that has long existed in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora. Abrahamian’s Yerevan-based brother Gagik is high on its list of candidates.
Abrahamian also runs the biggest Armenian advocacy group in Russia. It plans to hold a major Russian-Armenian business forum in Yerevan next week. Five Russian government ministers and more than a hundred businesspeople are expected to attend it.
The group, called the Union of Armenians of Russia, frequently organizes visits to Armenia by Russian government officials and other dignitaries. One of them, the wife of President Vladimir Putin, arrived in Yerevan on Monday to hand awards to the winners of an international Russian language contest.
Abrahamian also said that his organization closely involved in the implementation of the so-called equities-for-debt agreement between Yerevan and Moscow. Under that deal, the Russians will get ownership of five state-run Armenian enterprises in return for writing off Armenia's $100 million debt. "I personally oversee that," he claimed.