In a fresh scathing attack on President Serzh Sarkisian, former President Robert Kocharian has condemned the Armenian authorities for failing to ensure that a Russian soldier accused of murdering seven members of a family in Gyumri is tried in an Armenian court.
In an interview with his unofficial website published on Friday, Kocharian also called for “radical changes” in Armenia which he said are needed to address its socioeconomic problems. He said the country’s recent accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) could aggravate them.
Kocharian told 2rd.am that he was “deeply shocked” by the January 12 tragedy in Gyumri that sparked anti-government and anti-Russian protests. “It was clear that people’s outrage could turn into mass actions with unpredictable consequences,” he said. “In order to prevent that, the authorities had to take immediate emergency actions.
“In the first instance, [there should have been] explicit assurances that the crime will be investigated by Armenian law-enforcement bodies and that the criminal will appear before an Armenian court.”
Kocharian argued that two other Russian soldiers who went on a deadly shooting spree in Gyumri in 1999, during his presidency, were prosecuted and jailed by the Armenian authorities.
By contrast, Valery Permyakov, the Russian conscript charged in the family massacre, is expected to be tried by a Russian military court. Despite the angry protests, the current authorities in Yerevan have so far declined to formally demand his handover by the Russian military. Sarkisian has only added to the domestic anger with his failure to make any public statements on the Gyumri slaughter.
Kocharian insisted that Russia too should have been interested in placing Permyakov under Armenian jurisdiction because that would have prevented the anti-Russian uproar in Armenia. “Fuzzy, contradictory and confusing statements by our officials have poured petrol on the fire and added an element of national humiliation to the already tense situation,” he charged.
Kocharian, who served as president from 1998-2008, went on to reiterate his strong criticism of the Sarkisian administration’s policies and, in particular, its handling of the economy. “If the economic policy remains unchanged then it’s totally unclear what can improve the situation,” he said.
In that context, the ex-president took a dim view of Armenia’s recent accession to the EEU. “In the medium term, the EEU economies will be in recession,” he said. “The extremely depreciated Russian ruble will change the structure of our trade with Russia to the detriment of our goods.
“The likelihood of serious investments from Russia is low. As a result of the sanctions [the Russians] themselves have trouble refinancing Western loans. And because of joining the EEU, we are not quite attractive to Western companies.”
The authorities, continued Kocharian, are doing nothing to cure the country’s fundamental ills. “It is evident that the authorities and the society’s assessments of the state of affairs in the country are diametrically opposite,” he said. Hence, a lack of popular trust in the Armenian government, he added.
Kocharian further stressed the only “radical changes,” including an end to the current regime’s “political monopoly,” would remedy the situation. The biggest obstacle to such changes is a “conflict of the ruling elite’s economic interests with the country’s long-term interests,” he said in another jibe at Sarkisian.
Over the past two years Kocharian has increasingly criticized his presidential successor and erstwhile ally amid mounting speculation that he is plotting a political comeback through the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party of Gagik Tsarukian, a businessman close to him. The ex-president’s periodical interviews are construed by local observers as further signs of his imminent return to active politics.