Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reaffirmed Russia’s recognition of the 1915 Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire as genocide on Tuesday after Turkey’s angry protests against the use of the term by President Vladimir Putin.
“These days we remember the victims of one of the most dramatic events in history -- the genocide of the Armenian people,” Medvedev said in a letter to his Armenian counterpart Hovik Abrahamian. “We mourn those who died a century ago as a result of mass repressions in the Ottoman Empire.
“There is and there can be no justification for crimes against humanity. It is everyone’s duty to preserve the truth about that that appalling tragedy and to do everything to ensure that the horrors of the past are never repeated anywhere.”
“On behalf of the Government of the Russian Federation and me personally I convey to you and all citizens of brotherly Armenia words of sympathy and commiseration,” added the letter sent in connection with the 100th anniversary of the genocide marked on Friday.
The letter mirrored a statement which Putin issued two days before flying to Yerevan to take part in the official Armenian commemorations of the genocide centennial. As he spoke at the ceremony at the Tsitsernakabert memorial the Russian parliament adopted a declaration reaffirming its recognition of the genocide in 1995.
Turkey - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) hold a joint press conference at Turkey's Presidential Palace in Ankara, on December 1, 2014
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement later on Friday condemning both Putin and the State Duma. The ministry charged that Russia itself is guilty of mass killings committed in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia over the past century and has no moral right to accuse other states of genocide.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out at his Russian counterpart in a speech delivered the following day. He said Russia as well as France and Germany must “answer for the bloody stains in their own history” instead of asserting that the Ottoman Turks sought to wipe out the Armenian population of the crumbling empire.
Erdogan again criticized Putin at a news conference in Ankara on Monday. “I'm personally sad that Putin took such a step,” he said, according to “Today’s Zaman.” “What is happening in Ukraine and Crimea is evident. They should first explain these before calling [the events of 1915] genocide.”
Despite the harsh criticism, Ankara has stopped short of recalling the Turkish ambassador to Russia. Nor has it given indications that joint and strategically important energy projects planned by the Turkish and Russian governments will now be at risk.