By Ruben Meloyan
Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), on Thursday confirmed reports that he visited Moscow and discussed the political situation in Armenia with Russian government officials this week.
News of the visit was revealed by the Russian newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda” on Wednesday. The tabloid paper said Zurabian and unnamed “representatives of Russian power structures” discussed, among other things, the HAK’s plans to hold a rally on the first anniversary of the March 1 post-election clashes in Yerevan.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Zurabian said the confidential talks were initiated by the Russian government but refused to name any of his interlocutors in Moscow. “In general, we would ask for such meetings [in the past.] This time [the meeting] took place after [the January session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in] Strasbourg. It emerged that the Russian side would like to have such a meeting.”
Zurabian, who is one of HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian’s most trusted associates, asserted that information about his Moscow trip was leaked to “Komsomolskaya Pravda” by Russian officials, rather than the Armenian opposition. I don’t think that one should look for special explanations for that,” he said. “Perhaps the content of the meeting was such that it prodded [the Russians] into a more detailed description.”
Like the pro-Kremlin newspaper, Zurabian described the talks as “very important and productive” and said the two sides agreed to hold more such consultations in the future. He noted that Moscow is usually “much more cautious” than Western government in maintaining contacts with the Armenian opposition.
“I think the fact that they are engaging in such contacts proves that the Armenian opposition has become a very serious factor in Armenia’s internal political life,” he said. “It can really be said that there is no such powerful and consolidated opposition in any other part of the former Soviet Union.”
Zurabian accompanied Ter-Petrosian during the latter’s confidential trip Moscow in the run-up to Armenia’s February 2008 presidential election. Opposition sources said at the time that Ter-Petrosian met with Dmitry Medvedev, who subsequently succeeded Vladimir Putin as president of Russia.
Zurabian insisted that the HAK’s contacts with Moscow should not construed as proof of its pro-Russian orientation or its desire to win Russian support for leadership change in Armenia. “We are a pro-democracy movement,” he said.