The Armenian government gave on Thursday further indications that it is against the participation of Sergey Aksyonov, the de facto leader of Crimea, in a forthcoming Russian-Armenian interregional forum in Yerevan.
The government of the Ukrainian region annexed by Russia announced this week Aksyonov’s plans to travel to Armenia and take part in the forum. Such a development would almost certainly deal a major blow to Armenia’s relations with Ukraine and trigger Western criticism of Yerevan.
Aksyonov is one of several dozen Russian and Ukrainian officials that have been blacklisted by the United States and the European Union for their role in what the Western powers regard as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
An Armenian diplomatic source insisted on Wednesday that Aksyonov has received no official Armenian invitations. Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian confirmed this the following day. “To my knowledge, no invitation has been extended,” he told reporters.
Armenian Minister for Local Government and Emergency Situations Armen Yeritsian, a co-organizer of the event, was more specific on that score, even though he did not mention Aksyonov or Crimea by name. He indicated that the Black Sea peninsula is not among the regions that will be represented at the Yerevan forum expected later this year.
“The parties have worked out the format of the upcoming event, whereby the forum will feature those administrative-territorial entities that were represented at the [previous Russian-Armenian] forum held in 2013, are already cooperating [within that framework,] and have joint projects and signed agreements,” Yeritsian said in comments to the official Armenpress news agency.
The 2013 gathering took place several months before an internationally condemned referendum in Crimea that was followed by the Russian annexation.
President Serzh Sarkisian welcomed that referendum, prompting an angry reaction from Ukraine’s pro-Western government. The Ukrainian ambassador to Armenia was recalled to Kiev in protest. Sarkisian’s stance was also criticized by Western officials.