Businessman Gagik Tsarukian underscored the ambiguous status of his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on Tuesday when he stood alongside President Serzh Sarkisian and other top officials during the celebration of a major public holiday.
The ceremony marked the 95th anniversary of the creation of an independent Armenian republic that was later incorporated into the Soviet Union. It took place at the Sardarapat war memorial 40 kilometers west of Yerevan, the site of a key battle with Ottoman Turkish troops that was followed by the declaration of Armenia’s independence.
Sarkisian delivered a speech at the ceremony before watching a military parade from a podium together with Catholicos Garegin II, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian and key government ministers. Tsarukian, who is nominally a member of the presidential National Security Council, was also on the podium.
Tsarukian declined comment on the ceremony’s boycott by Armenia’s leading opposition forces. “Ask them why they didn’t show up. There is one state, one people,” he told journalists before leaving the scene in Abrahamian’s car.
The tycoon attended the state-organized celebration two weeks after declaring that the BHK, which has the second largest parliamentary faction, “cannot be in opposition” despite leaving Armenia’s governing coalition a year ago. He spoke during the consecration of a new church that was built by him in the town of Abovian. Sarkisian attended that ceremony together with Belarus’s visiting President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
One of Tsarukian’s top aides, Naira Zohrabian, stressed afterwards that the BHK continues to have “deep disagreements” with the government.