Russian immigration authorities have reportedly barred a prominent pro-Western Armenian political analyst from entering Russia.
Stepan Grigorian, who runs a private think-tank in Yerevan, says he was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport on Tuesday and expelled back to Armenia several hours later. He says he flew to the Russian capital to visit his late father’s grave at a local cemetery.
In a letter to another Armenian civic activist, Grigorian also claimed that immigration officials at Sheremetyevo declined to clearly explain why he is not allowed to visit Russia. He alleged political motives behind the Russian travel ban.
“It is no secret to anyone that the Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation headed by me actively cooperates with European non-governmental organizations,” he wrote. “It is evident that the Russian authorities’ decision was politically motivated.”
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry and Embassy in Russia said they are looking into the pundit’s expulsion but will not comment on it for now.
Grigorian had served as a member of Armenia’s first post-Communist parliament elected in 1990 before joining the Armenian diplomatic service. He worked at the Armenian Embassy in Moscow in the mid-1990s.
Grigorian claimed after his expulsion that the Russian authorities want to “suppress” Armenian civic groups that are critical of Moscow and stand for Armenia’s closer ties with the West.
Russia’s current ambassador in Yerevan, Ivan Volynkin, publicly called on the Armenian authorities in 2014 to crack down on Western-funded groups that “want to drive a wedge into Russian-Armenian relations.” Volynkin cited in that context a controversial Russian law that requires groups receiving U.S. and European grants to register as “foreign agents.”
The Armenian government ruled out any such curbs at the time.