The Belarusian Embassy in Armenia will relocate soon from Yerevan to a nearby village widely regarded as the fiefdom of a businessman-turned-politician enjoying a warm rapport with Belarus’s autocratic President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
The Armenian government on Thursday formally allowed the former Soviet republic to purchase for that purpose around 4,000 square meters of land in the village of Arinj. The plot has until now belonged to a local resident.
An explanatory note by the Armenian Foreign Ministry submitted to ministers said that the Belarusian mission requested permission for the relocation last November. It gave no reasons for the move.
Located just north of Yerevan, Arinj is primarily known as the place of birth and residence of Gagik Tsarukian, one of Armenia’s richest men leading its second largest parliamentary party. Many of its several thousand residents work for companies owned by Tsarukian. Arinj as well as other villages and towns in central Kotayk province make up the main political stronghold of the tycoon and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
Tsarukian, whose party is now in de facto opposition to the government, has developed commercial ties with Belarus and struck up a friendship with Lukashenko in the last several years. He opened in 2010 a wholesale trade center in Yerevan selling Belarusian agricultural equipment and consumer goods. Also, Belarus is a major export market for a brandy distillery owned by Tsarukian.
Lukashenko, who has long been ostracized by the West for harshly suppressing dissent, underscored his warm relations with Tsarukian when he attended in May 2013 the inauguration of a big church built by the BHK leader in Abovian, a town close to Arinj. In September, Lukashenko awarded a state medal to Tsarukian, citing his “great personal contribution to the development of political and economic ties between Belarus and Armenia.”