By Hrach Melkumian
Moscow’s longtime Mayor Yuri Luzhkov ended a two-day visit to Yerevan on Friday, signing economic agreements which he said will dramatically boost commercial ties between the two capitals.
Luzhkov and Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharian agreed to ensure more than $100 million in mutual investments in real estate development and the business infrastructure within the next three years. “The main focus is on construction and urban development,” Zakharian said.
He said the Armenian capital will be the main beneficiary of the agreements that call for increased Russian investments in its booming construction sector. A Russian investment firm already owns one of the largest plots of land off Northern Avenue, a new downtown Yerevan thoroughfare currently under construction. Luzhkov laid the first ceremonial stone of a residential and office complex to be built by the company reportedly owned by ethnic Armenians.
Armenian-born businessmen are also expected to play an important role in planned Armenian investments in Moscow. “We agreed on the construction of a Yerevan trading center in Moscow, yet another hotel-business center and a wholesale trade complex,” Luzhkov told a news conference.
The popular mayor, who once harbored ambitions to become Russia’s president, added that this alone should lead to a fivefold increase in the volume of trade between the two cities. The importance of the planned Armenian trade center in Moscow was also emphasized by President Robert Kocharian as he received Luzhkov later in the day.
Luzhkov also met with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian who pledged the Armenian government’s support for Moscow’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Russian megapolis is home to tens of thousands of Armenians that have left their impoverished country since the Soviet collapse in search of employment. Many of them frequently complain about harassment at the hands of corrupt and xenophobic police officers exploiting stiff immigration rulers enacted by Luzhkov in the early 1990s.