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Opposition MP Blamed For Row With Russian Border Guards


Armenia -- A border-guard watchtower on the Armenian-Turkish frontier pictured against the backdrop of Mount Ararat.

Armenia -- A border-guard watchtower on the Armenian-Turkish frontier pictured against the backdrop of Mount Ararat.

Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian blamed on Monday an outspoken opposition lawmaker for her recent altercation with Russian border guards that provoked opposition allegations of a gross violation of Armenia’s sovereignty.

The incident took place on September 25 as the lawmaker, Zaruhi Postanjian, campaigned for a candidate of her Zharangutyun (Heritage) party ahead of a by-election held in a constituency in the southeastern Syunik region bordering Iran. A car carrying her was stopped and searched by Russian border guards some 30 kilometers north of the Armenian-Iranian border.

Postanjian vehemently protested against the search, refusing to show any documents and accusing the Russians of setting up an illegal roadblock. She also alleged afterwards that they smashed a video camera held by a Zharangutyun activist who accompanied her.

The incident had a strong resonance in the Armenian press and opposition circles, with critics saying that the Russian officers overstepped their powers defined by Russian-Armenian agreements. Armenian law-enforcement agencies did not react to it, however. Abrahamian was the only official to promise to ask the border guards subordinate to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the former KGB, for explanations.

Speaking during a parliament session, Abrahamian said he has received a letter from their commander in Armenia saying that the border guards hunted, together with the Armenian police and other security agencies, for a man who smuggled drugs from Iran.

Postanjian insisted, however, that there were no Armenian officers at the roadblock. She and other oppositionists also argued earlier that the highway section where the incident occurred was too far from the border zone and that the Russians therefore had no right to conduct any security operations there.

“I don’t believe in your statements because life has shown that you can slander people,” Abrahamian told Postanjian. “The fact is that they are not true.”

“Mr. Abrahamian, are you subordinate to the Russian FSB?” shot back the opposition parliamentarian known for harsh attacks on the government.

Nikol Pashinian, another opposition deputy, also dismissed Abrahamian’s conclusion. “At stake is Armenia’s sovereignty,” she said.

Abrahamian, who is a leading member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), similarly accused Postanjian of “slander” earlier this month after she sought to embarrass President Serzh Sarkisian during his visit to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg. The speaker also decided to oust her from the Armenian parliamentary delegation in the PACE.
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