The Armenian government on Monday pointedly declined to react to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine that has been strongly condemned by the United States and the European Union.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said only that Armenia’s ambassador to Ukraine is in Kiev and closely monitoring the dramatic events in the country when he was asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) to present official Yerevan’s position on the Russian occupation of Crimea.
President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) was likewise careful not to criticize or endorse the actions taken by Armenia’s main ally in response to the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
“As we can see, Russia’s president and other officials say that they are protecting Russian-speaking people,” Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK, told reporters. “We can also see the situation that has objectively emerged. At the same time, it is essential that all processes take place in accordance with international law and standards.” He refused to comment further.
Official Armenian reaction to Yanukovich’s ouster has also been ambiguous. It is still not clear whether Armenia recognizes the new pro-Western government in Kiev that took over late last month following a popular uprising.
“Regardless of Ukraine’s choice, we will carry on with our relations. This is our position,” Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Koharian said on Saturday, before the full scale of the Russian intervention in Crimea became obvious.
“It is in Armenia’s interests to continue cooperation with Ukraine in all areas,” Kocharian told a news conference.
Yerevan is treading carefully on the Ukrainian crisis because of its close military, political and economic ties to Moscow. They will deepen further after Armenia joins a Russian-led customs union later this year.
President Sarkisian’s unexpected decision last August to seek membership of that union at the expense of an Association Agreement with the EU is widely believed to have resulted from strong Russian pressure. Moscow also pressurized Yanukovich’s regime into walking away from a similar deal with the EU later in 2013. That sparked massive demonstrations across Ukraine which eventually brought down Yanukovich.
Unlike his deposed Ukrainian counterpart, Sarkisian faced no big street protests after his foreign policy U-turn. Only one major opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage), is officially against joining the Customs Union.
Stepan Safarian, a Zharangutyun leader, on Monday condemned the Russian military action as aggression. “This is a clear invasion and violation of international law,” he said, echoing statements made by Western powers.