“Aravot” likens the opening of Armenia’s Year in Russia to Soviet-era cultural events that featured grandiose speeches and lacked popular interest. “The political atmosphere in both Armenia and Russia very much resembles the Brezhnev era of stagnation with its false official optimism … characteristic of closed societies,” claims the paper.
In an extensive interview with “Golos Armenii,” Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian says the idea of returning occupied territories to Azerbaijan is “not dear to my heart.” But he emphasizes that “people should realize that peace costs a lot” and that the Armenian side should be prepared for serious concessions that would ensure continued Armenian control over Karabakh. “There can be no mutual compromise beyond this boundary,” he adds.
Sarkisian also tells “Golos Armenii” that he will decide which party to join for contesting the 2007 parliamentary election “in the next 20-25 days.” He sees nothing wrong in the creation of political parties by Armenia’s top “oligarchs,” notably Gagik Tsarukian. “Money never played a minor role in politics,” argues Sarkisian. But he goes on to warn the oligarchs against “blaming others for their failures later on.” Sarkisian is also hopeful that Armenia will resolve its gas dispute with Russia.
“Hayots Ashkhar,” a paper reputedly close to Sarkisian and until now known for its pro-Russian attitudes, steps up its surprise anti-Russian rhetoric. “It is difficult to contend for certain how connected the blowing up of the [Russian] pipeline is to the high-level Russian-Armenian meeting in Moscow,” it says. “Nevertheless, one can hardly consider that [the two developments] coincided by chance.”
“Azg,” meanwhile, quotes Andranik Migranian, an Armenian-born prominent Russian pundit, as saying that he thinks Russia will somehow “compensate” Armenia for the gas price hike. Migranian says Moscow has to do that if it is to maintain its strategic partnership with Armenia and strong presence in the South Caucasus.
“Iravunk” says it is obvious that Russian wants to “keep all of Armenia’s energy facilities under its control as a guarantee of [Armenian] loyalty.”
“Aravot” notes that presidential spokesman Victor Soghomonian’s denial of Russian reports that Robert Kocharian offered the Russians a 45 percent stake in the Iran-Armenia pipeline was less than categorical.
“It must be admitted that Russia is not a reliable partner but we have only the Armenian authorities to blame for the existing situation,” attacks “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports on widespread public discontent with the Yerevan municipality’s inability to successfully cope with continuing heavy snowfalls. The paper says some see the virtual absence of snow-ploughs from the streets of Yerevan as an act of sabotage against Mayor Yervand Zakharian aimed at “justifying his possible sacking.”