Former President Robert Kocharian on Friday reaffirmed his criticism of the Armenian government’s controversial energy agreements with Moscow and its secret subsidizing of the price of natural gas supplied by Russia.
In that regard, Kocharian shrugged off through his office Energy Minister Armen Movsisian’s claims that those agreements are more beneficial for Armenia than deals which he had cut with the Russians while in office.
Movsisian singled out on Wednesday a so-called “assets-for-debt” deal that was signed in November 2002. It granted Russia ownership of Armenia’s largest thermal power plant and four other state-run enterprises in payment for Yerevan’s $100 million debt to Moscow.
In a statement, Kocharian’s office argued that key terms of the 2002 settlement were worked out by a Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission that was co-headed by then Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and a Russian deputy prime minister. It said that Movsisian, who has served as energy minister since 2001, was also a “key participant of the process.”
“Robert Kocharian continues to believe that the  agreement was good and beneficial and that the intergovernmental commission did a good job. Judging from his interview, Movsisian has rethought the evaluation of the work done by him and his personal contribution to that agreement,” the statement said scathingly. It poured scorn on Movsisian’s “selective memory.”
Speaking to Tert.am, Movsisian implied that Kocharian has no moral right to deplore the secret subsidies, effectively acknowledged by the Armenian government late last year, because the ex-president himself sold energy assets to Russia’s Gazprom giant to prevent gas price hikes. The minister pointed to a complex Russian-Armenian energy accord that was signed in 2006. It gradually raised Gazprom’s share in Armenia’s ARG gas distribution network to 80 percent and gave the Russian monopoly control over a gas pipeline from Iran that was being constructed at the time.
Gazprom paid at the time almost $250 million to buy an incomplete thermal power plant located in the central Armenian town of Hrazdan. The Kocharian government used the bulk of that money for subsidizing domestic gas prices.
Kocharian’s office said that the ex-president’s administration paid those subsidies openly and transparently, unlike the current government that denied until recently that Gazprom sharply raised its gas tariff for Armenia in 2011. The government ceded its 20 percent share in ARG to Gazprom to clear a $300 million debt incurred as a result of the secret subsidizing.
Russian-Armenian agreements signed last December also granted Gazprom 30-year privileges in the Armenian energy market. In particular, the current and future authorities in Yerevan will not be allowed to raise taxes paid by the Gazprom-owned distribution network or take any other measures that would narrow its profit margins.
Kocharian described these concessions as “shocking” in remarks posted on his unofficial website on Monday. The criticism was part of his intensifying war of words with Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisan over the government’s economic policies. Signaling his return to politics, the ex-president also launched thinly veiled attacks on Serzh Sarkisian, his successor and erstwhile political ally.
Movsisian and some senior members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), notably Education Minister Armen Ashotian, have hit back at Kocharian this week in a sign of the Sarkisian administration’s concerns about his possible comeback. The latest statement released by Kocharian’s office slammed Ashotian as well.