(Saturday, April 8)
“Haykakan Zhamanak” believes that the Russian-Armenian gas agreement only bears out the fugitive former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian’s claims that the 1998 ouster of Levon Ter-Petrosian was part of a “conspiracy” hatched in the Kremlin. “This in turn means that Kocharian got the post of president of the republic from Russia’s hands and directly owes it to that country,” claims the paper. “If we look carefully at what Russia has acquired in Armenia during Kocharian’s years in power, Siradeghian’s revelation will sound more and more credible.”
“We are left to conclude that all those claims that Armenia is ruled by a criminal illegitimate regime only partly reveal the reality. Armenia is ruled by an alien -- more precisely, Russian -- regime,” concludes “Haykakan Zhamanak.”
“Aravot” carries a statement by Siradeghian’s HHSh party which says the gas deal “endangers Armenia’s national security” and is aimed at keeping Kocharian’s regime in power.
“Hayots Ashkhar” laughs off the claims about the alleged illegitimacy of Armenia’s ruling regime and persecution of the country’s former leadership. The paper says that if those claims were true then “those who make such statements would also be persecuted.” “But they are not being persecuted, are they?” it argues. “Nobody bans or suspends activities of their organizations and clubs. Nobody muzzles media outlets disseminating their ideas.” As for Siradeghian, the pro-Kocharian paper claims that he is on the run because “a dozen people were killed at his orders.”
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian assures “168 Zham” that the gas deal with Russia does not contradict his January remark that Armenia will not hand over more industries to Russia in exchange for cheaper gas. “We have not given away property or assets in return for preventing a rise in the gas price,” says Markarian. “We have sold the Fifth Unit of the Hrazdan thermal power plant on terms beneficial for our country, which must not be directly linked to the mitigation of consequences of the rise in the gas price.” The Armenian government could have used proceeds from the sale for other purposes, he says. The paper calls Markarian’s explanation a “ploy,” however.
“A drastic increase in the domestic gas tariffs could not have failed to have a substantial impact on both the population and the economy,” writes “Hayots Ashkhar.” “This deal has not only prevented a drastic rise in the gas price but also created conditions that will prevent price increases in other spheres.” But the paper admits that price hikes may well take place after 2008.
“The foolishness of this deal is unprecedented,” counters “Haykakan Zhamanak.” “In fact, this is a pronounced criminal deal that was masterminded and carried out by a group of criminals.” The paper insists that the price which Armenia will pay for avoiding a surge in the gas price for “just two and a half winters” is enormous. It is confident that those who cut “this criminal deal” will eventually be put on trial.