By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s National Security Service declined on Thursday to explicitly confirm or deny allegations that it suspects Aram Karapetian, a pro-Russian opposition leader, of spying for a foreign intelligence service and has infiltrated his political party.
In an open letter to the NSS published by two Yerevan newspapers on Tuesday, Karapetian claimed that the former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB has launched a criminal investigation into his alleged espionage. “On the basis of what information is that investigation being conducted?” he asked.
Karapetian also disclosed what he said are the operational nicknames of several NSS agents that allegedly infiltrated his Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party.
In a statement published by the state-controlled “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” daily, the NSS derided the oppositionist as an “adventure-seeking revolutionary” but did not clarify whether he is indeed under investigation. It instead portrayed Karapetian’s letter as an offer of secret collaboration with the Armenian security service.
“Calm down, Mr. Karapetian,” read the NSS statement. “You are not of interest to us in any way. There is no need in your services … Your amateurish evaluations of our work are so wide of the mark and ludicrous that they cause laughter, especially among young [ NSS] employees.”
“One has to have a very morbid imagination to hint that Aram Karapetian wants to collaborate with the National Security Service,” the Nor Zhamanakner leader hit back, speaking to RFE/RL. He said his questions remain unanswered and he will lodge a complaint with Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian.
That Karapetian’s activities are watched by the NSS became obvious last April when the oppositionist was stopped and forced out of his car and saw his six bodyguards arrested by ex-KGB agents without any explanation. The NSS released the men several hours later, saying that they were detained on suspicion of illegal arms possession.
The incident took place two weeks after Karapetian announced plans to launch a nationwide campaign of anti-government demonstrations aimed at forcing President Robert Kocharian to resign. Karapetian, who is believed to have political sponsors in Russia, specifically pledged to repeat the Armenian opposition’s ill-fated 2004 attempt to block a major street leading to Kocharian’s Yerevan residence.
Nor Zhamanakner has since held two rallies in Yerevan, pulling embarrassingly small crowds. Still, the NSS’s repeated, if derogatory, references to the party’s leader as a “revolutionary” suggest that the Armenian authorities are concerned about his activities. Not least because of his reputed Russian connections that seem to be scaring away Armenia’s mainstream opposition groups.
In his open letter, Karapetian also claimed that the NSS has raided an Armenian commercial bank to obtain detailed information on cash transfers received by the Nor Zhamanakner leader from Moscow. The NSS did not comment on this claim either.
(Photolur photo: Gorik Hakovian, chief of the National Security Service.)