Russia did not provoke former President Robert Kocharian’s latest criticism of the Armenian government, a prominent Russian pundit reputedly close to the Kremlin said on Thursday.
Modest Kolerov, the editor of the REX news agency, dismissed speculation that Moscow might be encouraging Kocharian to try to return to power because it remains unhappy with the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian. The Russian authorities are not closely monitoring political developments in Armenia at the moment, he claimed.
“Robert Sedrakovich [Kocharian] is acting absolutely on his own,” Kolerov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I suppose, though, that his criticism of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian is understandable in Moscow.”
“Basically, if Serzh Sarkisian decides to change the prime minister, Moscow will not be against. But it will not pressurize him on this issue either,” said the analyst known as a staunch advocate of even stronger Russian influence in former Soviet republics.
Tigran Sarkisian repeatedly spoke out against joining the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan until President Sarkisian’s unexpected decision last month to make Armenia part of the Russian-led bloc. The authorities in Yerevan came under strong Russian pressure in the months leading up to that U-turn. Kolerov was among Russian pundits who criticized the Sarkisian administration’s plans to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union.
Kolerov, who held a senior position in President Vladimir Putin’s administration in 2005-2007, noted that while the Russian attitude towards Tigran Sarkisian has been “negative, to put it mildly,” the question of who will be Armenia’s prime minister is now “secondary” for the Kremlin. “For Moscow, the key objective in Russian-Armenian relations today is the successful realization of the roadmap to Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union,” he said. “Everything else is unimportant.”
Some Armenian commentators have speculated that Kocharian regards the post of prime minister as the first stage of his would-be return to power. The ex-president himself has given no such indications in his public statements, however, even if he has singled out Tigran Sarkisian for criticism.
A member of the executive board of a major Russian business group, Kocharian had a reputation of a more pro-Russian figure than Serzh Sarkisian at least until the latter’s U-turn on the Customs Union. Kocharian is known to have met Putin on a number of occasions since leaving office in 2008. In a May 2012 interview, he made a point of mentioning his “particular mutual understanding” and “continuous relations” with Putin.