The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) accused the authorities on Wednesday of seeking to intimidate its leader Gagik Tsarukian by disrupting the work of one of the largest companies owned by him.
Production operations at the cement plant located in the southern town of Ararat were halted last week after it stopped receiving water through a nearby pumping station for unknown reasons. The plant was also raided by police officers and representatives of a state environment protection agency.
The Armenian police attributed the inspection to a criminal investigation into alleged misuse of irrigation and drinking water in the surrounding Ararat province. They denied any involvement in the temporary shutdown of the pumping station.
The station partly functioned on Wednesday, allowing the cement plant to resume its work. “This was the first such case during my 52-year work here,” said Hovannes Aslanian, an elderly man working there. “I don’t know why they did that. The plant stopped working. Its 1,300 workers were left idle.”
Naira Zohrabian, a senior representative of the BHK, denounced the disruption as retribution for Tsarukian’s strong criticism of the government’s economic policies voiced at a party congress on February 15. “It is obvious that some formulations and speeches at the conference provoked such reaction,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“I agree with those analysts who consider what happened at Ararat Cement a stern warning to Gagik Tsarukian. And that is not denied by some pro-government media outlets,” she said.
In his speech, Tsarukian signaled his readiness to challenge President Serzh Sarkisian with more radical actions. “I am prepared for any development, any scenario … I can’t stand by and watch my country weaken by the day,” declared the tycoon.
The BHK, which has the second largest number of seats in parliament, was part of Armenia’s governing coalition until June 2012. It quit the government after growing tensions with Sarkisian and his Republican Party (HHK).