By Aza Babayan in Moscow and Emil Danielyan
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and his entourage on Tuesday declined to divulge any details of his surprise Monday visit to Moscow during which he reportedly met Russian President Vladimir Putin’s likely successor.
The one-day trip came just over one week before Armenia’s presidential election, raising questions about the Kremlin’s continued support for the current authorities in Yerevan.
The Russian newspaper “Argumenty i Fakty” reported that Ter-Petrosian had a brief conversation with Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s first deputy prime ministry widely expected to succeed Putin in an election scheduled for next month. The paper said Ter-Petrosian “explained his position on key issues” during these and other “political consultations” in the Russian capital.
It quoted a Ter-Petrosian spokesman in Moscow, Smbat Karakhanian, as saying that the Armenian presidential candidate’s talks were “very productive and important.” No further details were reported.
Contacted by RFE/RL, an aide to Medvedev, Vladimir Andrianov, refused to refute or confirm the “Argumenty i Fakty” report. Ter-Petrosian aides in Yerevan also declined a comment.
RFE/RL learned that while in Moscow Ter-Petrosian was interviewed by Russian state television. A prominent Russian TV commentator who spoke to the ex-president could not say when the interview will be aired.
Both outgoing President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian have strengthened Armenia’s ties with Russia and enjoyed Moscow’s backing throughout their decade-long rule. As recently as last week, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov paid a high-profile visit to Yerevan which was widely construed as an expression of Russian support for Sarkisian’s presidential bid. Still, Zubkov stopped short of publicly urging Armenians to vote for Sarkisian.
“The authorities are alarmed by street protests staged by the [Armenian] opposition every day,” the Russian daily “Moskovsky Komsomolets” quoted an unnamed Armenian government official as saying during Zubkov’s trip. “They are attended by more and more people. The visit by your prime minister will demonstrate to the electorate on whose side Russia is.”