By Ruzanna Khachatrian
President Robert Kocharian will fly to Moscow to attend the state funeral of Russia’s former President Boris Yeltsin scheduled for Wednesday, his office said on Tuesday.
Yeltsin, who died of heart failure on Monday aged 76, had presided over the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union and governed Russia until handing over power to his handpicked successor, Vladimir Putin, in late 1999. He had also played a key role in close political and militaries relations forged by Armenia and Russia following the Soviet collapse.
Kocharian sent a message of condolences to Putin late Monday, paying tribute to Yeltsin’s contribution to democratic change in Russia and Russian-Armenian ties. “Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin is an era, a reference point in the history of relations between our fraternal peoples,” he said.
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, who had closely dealt with the Yeltsin administration throughout his eight-year presidency, sent a separate message of condolences to the Russian ex-president’s wife Naina. “I have lost a sincere and faithful friend who combined unwavering moral principles, kindness, humanity with the wisdom of a distinguished statesman,” wrote Ter-Petrosian.
“I would particularly like to emphasize the Boris Nikolayevich’s contribution to the establishment and deepening of allied relations between Russia and Armenia in the interests of peace and stability in our region,” he said.
A spokesman for Ter-Petrosian told RFE/RL that the Armenian ex-president will not attend Yeltsin’s funeral. Yeltsin met both Ter-Petrosian and Kocharian during his last, private visit to Armenia in October 2002.
Yeltsin’s political legacy was also praised on Tuesday by two Armenian opposition leaders who held senior government positions in the early 1990s. Former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukian and former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian said the Russian-Armenian relationship was based on an equal footing at the time.
“Yeltsin’s Russia had no imperial designs on Armenia, and Armenia’s [former] leadership behaved more independently,” Manukian told RFE/RL. “Relations with Russia were based on political, economic and military interests, rather than [the current Armenian leaders’] desire to retain power.”
“The Boris Yeltsin era was a time of real partnership, mutual respect, and friendship of equals,” agreed Hovannisian.
(Photolur photo: Yeltsin and Kocharian pictured in Yerevan in October 2002.)