The Armenian members of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) have pointedly declined to vote against a resolution accusing Russia of military aggression against Ukraine.
Their stance contrasted with the Armenian government’s controversial decision last year to oppose a pro-Ukrainian resolution overwhelmingly approved by the United Nations General Assembly.
The PACE resolution passed late on Wednesday condemns Russia's “illegal annexation of Crimea” in March 2014 and accuses Moscow of “instigating and escalating developments in Ukraine, including with arms supplies to insurgent forces and covert military action by Russian troops inside eastern Ukraine.” The Strasbourg-based assembly also decided again to strip Russia of the right to vote or take part in the PACE’s governing bodies until April 2015.
After the decision, the head of Russia's delegation to PACE, Aleksei Pushkov, said his country will suspend until the end of 2015 its participation in the pan-European body dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The PACE first suspended Russia in April 2014.
Three of the four Armenian parliamentarians currently holding PACE seats abstained in the vote. Two of them represent the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), while the other is affiliated with Orinats Yerkir, a nominally opposition party thought to maintain links with President Serzh Sarkisian. The fourth member of the Armenian delegation in Strasbourg did not vote at all.
The PACE resolution was adopted almost one year after President Sarkisian welcomed a disputed referendum in Crimea that led to the Ukrainian region’s annexation by Russia. Armenia went on to vote against a pro-Ukrainian resolution on Crimea at the UN General Assembly. The Ukrainian government condemned that stance, recalling its ambassador in Yerevan.
The Armenian lawmakers’ seemingly neutral stance on the PACE measure therefore comes as a surprise, especially given Armenia’s recent accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Some analysts already see a pro-Western shift in Armenian foreign policy.
Stepan Grigorian of the Yerevan-based Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation said on Thursday that Yerevan is now keen to reverse its “international isolation” resulting from Sarkisian’s pro-Russian moves on the Ukraine crisis. “That is why they decided to abstain. They didn’t adopt a pro-Russian stance at the PACE,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). The Sarkisian government is thus sending a corresponding “message” to the West, he said.
“Russia is also to blame for this stance adopted by our delegation,” added the pro-Western pundit. “Having joined the EEU, Armenia had reason to expect Russian assistance in financial and other spheres. But as we can see, EEU membership has only earned Armenia negative things.”