The Armenian government has pointedly refused to add its voice to domestic concerns about Russia’s recent pledge to counter any “aggressive” foreign interference in Armenia’s internal affairs.
The Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Ivan Volynkin, issued the blunt warning, which seemed primarily addressed to the West, earlier this month as he addressed a congress of Russian-speaking people held in the Armenian capital.
“We will thwart any aggressive interference in the internal affairs of friendly states carried out under the pretext of spreading ideas alien to our minds and hearts,” Volynkin said, speaking in the context of the continuing crisis in Ukraine that has pitted Russia against Western powers. He did not elaborate.
The remarks prompted serious concern from Armenian opposition and civic figures critical of the Kremlin. Boris Navasardian, the leader a coalition of several dozen Armenian non-governmental organizations promoting European integration, said on Friday that they carry a “certain threat” to Armenia’s sovereignty and democratization.
Navasardian, who also heads the Yerevan Press Club, argued that various Russian-Armenian agreements signed over the past two decades do not allow the kind of Russian intervention that was threatened by Volynkin. “We can’t be certain that those actions would definitely stem from Armenia’s interests,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Tigran Khzmalian, a leader of an opposition movement called Preparliament, said that the Russian envoy himself is meddling in Armenia’s internal affairs. He claimed that Russian is effectively warning Armenians against revolting or protesting against their rulers in the wake of the recent anti-government uprising in Ukraine strongly condemned by Moscow.
“After that statement, the ambassador should have been summoned to the Armenian Foreign Ministry and handed a protest note,” said Ruben Mehrabian, a pro-Western political analyst. “It’s not up to Russia to decide what must and must not be done in Armenia. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
The Foreign Ministry declined to directly comment on Volynkin’s statement on Friday. A ministry spokesman said only that Russia is Armenia’s “strategic ally” that helps to ensure its national security.
Artak Zakarian, the pro-government chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, likewise saw no cause for concern. “We have high-level strategic partnership with the Russian Federation and are interested in its development,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Zakarian said Russian-Armenian ties will deepen further after Armenia joins a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states later this year. He insisted that they pose no threat to the country’s independence.