Aza Babayan in Moscow
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian urged Russia’s government to tackle continuing racist attacks on Armenians and minimize losses incurred by Armenian companies as a result of the Russian economic blockade of Georgia during a visit to Moscow on Friday.
Marakian was reported by his office in Yerevan to have raised the issues during talks with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Fradkov. A statement by the Armenian government’s press service quoted him as expressing concern about “frequent instances of violence” against Armenians living in Russia. Markarian said the Russian authorities should admit the “ethnic character” of such crimes, the statement said, adding that Fradkov agreed that failure to solve them would be “fraught with negative consequences” for Russian-Armenian ties.
The Russian law-enforcement bodies have been under fire in recent months for their failure to stop the increasingly endemic violence against darker-skinned immigrants from the Caucasus, Central Asia and Africa. The violence is widely blamed on neo-Nazi skinhead groups openly operating in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and other Russian cities. According to Russian human rights organizations, at least seven Armenians and ethnic Armenian citizens of Russia have been killed in such attacks this year. The most recent victim, a 15-year-old boy, was stabbed to death in a town near Moscow in broad daylight on November 12.
The Armenian government is facing growing domestic pressure to exert pressure on the Russian authorities. Visiting Yerevan last September, Russia’s Prosecutor-General Yuri Chayka said they have stepped up their efforts to combat and avert racist attacks on Armenians and other non-Slavic immigrants. Chayka said his office now directly oversees criminal investigations into such incidents.
Markarian was also cited as complaining that Moscow decision last June to close its main border crossing with Georgia inflicted “serious losses” on Armenian companies trading with Russia. He called in that regard for the reopening of a regular ferry service between Russian and Georgian Black Sea ports that was also heavily used by Armenian exporters.
Neither issue was mentioned by the two premiers at a news conference that followed their talks, however. They spoke instead of growing bilateral trade and the completion of the Year of Armenia in Russia.
“Our relations, especially in the area of trade and economy, are developing quite dynamically,” Fradkov said, adding that he and Markarian talked about “how to move further forward.”