Hundreds of supporters of the Armenian Communist Party (HKK) demanded Armenia’s quick accession to a Russian-led union of ex-Soviet states as they marched through central Yerevan in a May Day celebration on Thursday.
The procession ended outside the Russian Embassy in the Armenian capital where HKK leaders read out a petition voicing strong support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “large-scale integration processes” in the former Soviet Union. “Russia! Russia!” the crowd holding red flags and banners chanted in response.
“If there has been any good thing done by Serzh Sarkisian, that’s his decision to join the Customs Union,” one elderly demonstrator told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He said Armenia’s ongoing membership talks with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan should be concluded as soon as possible.
“I am very grateful to Vladimir Putin for setting up the Customs Union,” said another, younger man.
The HKK’s first secretary, Tachat Sargsian, insisted that membership in the bloc, which Putin wants to transform into a Eurasian Union, is critical for ending Armenia’s socioeconomic woes. He bristled at critics’ claims that it would put the country’s sovereignty at risk. “On the contrary, we will feel ourselves even more secure after joining the Customs Union,” he told reporters.
Many of the HKK supporters marking May Day associated the Russian-dominated union with their more prosperous life in the ex-USSR. “Back then we would go to May Day celebrations with songs and a lot of joy. Now people wake up in the morning and think what they are doing to do till the evening,” said one female pensioner.
Although May Day is a public holiday in Armenia, the HKK was the only political group to celebrate it with a high-profile event. The Armenian Communists were a major political force in the 1990s, winning roughly 10 percent of the vote in presidential and parliamentary elections. However, their influence has since declined dramatically. The HKK has not been represented in the Armenian parliament since 2003.