President Vladimir Putin on Friday appointed a Russian diplomat who was controversially expelled from Georgia in 2007 as Russia’s new ambassador to Armenia.
The diplomat, Ivan Volynkin, will replace Ambassador Vyacheslav Kovalenko. The latter has headed the Russian Embassy in Yerevan since 2009.
Volynkin was among three officials from the Russian Embassy in neighboring Georgia who were deported back to Moscow in November 2007. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili accused them of engaging in espionage and plotting to topple his government through the Georgian opposition. The Kremlin strongly denied those allegations.
The expulsions followed the forcible dispersal of massive anti-government demonstrations in Tbilisi that reportedly left hundreds of protesters injured. The crackdown was criticized by Western governments and human rights groups. Saakashvili defended it, however, saying that the demonstrations demanding his resignation were organized by Moscow.
Volynkin was afterwards appointed to a high-level position at the Russian Foreign Ministry.