Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian said on Friday that Armenia must consider withdrawing from a Russian-led military alliance if Moscow carries on with what he described as anti-Armenian policies.
Hovannisian, who was President Serzh Sarkisian’s main challenger in last February’s presidential election, pointed to the recently disclosed sale of hundreds of Russian tanks, armored vehicles, rockets and artillery systems to Azerbaijan. He also condemned in that regard the public ill-treatment by the Russian police of an Armenian man accused of causing a deadly bus crash near Moscow last week.
“This is not about being anti-Russian, this is a necessity for Armenia,” the U.S.-born leader of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party told journalists. “If our strategic ally delivers billions of dollars worth of weapons to a state that wants to wipe out Armenia and Artsakh (Karabakh), that is no strategic partnership [with Armenia] and Armenia should reconsider its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization and deal with the CSTO the way it deals with NATO.”
Hovannisian similarly criticized as lopsided Armenia’s close political, military and economic ties with Russia during the recent presidential race. He said that Yerevan has become too submissive in its dealings with Moscow.
The opposition leader’s latest calls reflect growing discontent with Russia in Armenian political and civic circles even if they are certain to be rejected by the Armenian government. The latter has downplayed, in public, the implications of the Russian-Azerbaijani arms deal for the Karabakh conflict, saying that it will be offset by continued Russian military assistance to Armenia.
The controversy over the Russian arms supplies to Baku was followed by what many in Armenia regard as a degrading and xenophobic treatment of Hrachya Harutiunian, an Armenian migrant worker whose heavy truck collided with a commuter bus outside Moscow, killing 18 people and injuring dozens of others. Armenian officials and pro-government politicians have added their voice to the uproar.