The pro-government majority in the National Assembly appeared ready on Monday to accept opposition calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the Armenian government’s recent controversial agreements with Russia’s Gazprom monopoly.
The opposition minority proposed early this month that the Armenian parliament set up an ad hoc commission that would look into the government’s dealings with Gazprom and its broader handling of gas supplies from Russia. The commission would specifically investigate the origin of a $300 million debt to the Russian energy conglomerate which the government claims to have incurred as a result of those subsidies. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which controls the majority of parliament seats, rejected a corresponding motion put by the country’s four main opposition parties.
In what looked like a U-turn, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian told minority leaders that the HHK is now ready to form a special commission on the gas issue. They did not immediately accept the offer, saying that they need time to discuss it.
It was not immediately clear whether Abrahamian agreed to the kind of inquiry that was sought by the opposition. The latter has denounced the Russian-Armenian energy agreements that were signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s December 2 visit to Yerevan.
Immediately after the signing of the deal, the government essentially acknowledged that it had kept secret a sharp rise in the cost of Russian gas for Armenia, which came into effect in April 2011. The gas price for Armenian households went up only in July 2013, shortly after a presidential election and municipal polls in Yerevan controversially won by the HHK. This fact sparked opposition claims that the gas subsidies were illegal and politically motivated.
The resulting debt to Gazprom was cleared through the sale of the government’s remaining 20 percent stake in Armenia’s ARG gas distribution network. Gazprom was also granted 30-year exclusive rights in the local energy market.