The Armenian government was in no rush on Monday to officially recognize the outcome of a weekend presidential election in Ukraine welcomed by the West as a major step towards ending the bloody crisis in the country.
The Foreign Ministry in Yerevan declined to evaluate the ballot and its official results that gave a landslide victory to billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko.
It was also not clear whether President Serzh Sarkisian will congratulate the winner. His press secretary, Arman Saghatelian, only told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Sarkisian’s congratulations sent to foreign leaders will be made public “in due course.”
Gagik Melikian, a senior pro-government lawmaker, also commented ambiguously on the official Armenian reaction to the election held amid continuing fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. “I think it depends on how the international community perceives the election results,” he said. “The Armenian authorities themselves will decide how to evaluate them.”
Yerevan appears to be waiting for more clarity in Russia’s response to the Ukrainian election. Moscow, which has been accused by the pro-Western interim government in Kiev of fomenting trouble in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions, has not yet recognized Poroshenko’s victory. Still, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that his government is ready for dialogue with the new Ukrainian leader.
The Sarkisian administration has controversially sided with Moscow in the Ukrainian crisis. In particular, it effectively recognized the results of a March referendum in Crimea that was followed by Russia’s annexation of the region condemned by much of the international community. The move led Ukraine to recall its ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Kukhta, in protest.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service from Kiev on Monday, Kukhta said that he expects to return to Yerevan “very soon” but could not give any possible dates. “Ukraine is interested in developing relations with Armenia,” he said.
Both the United States and the European Union have criticized Yerevan’s pro-Russian stance. The Armenian government and its political allies say that it is consistent with Armenia’s long-standing support for the principle of self-determination in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Government critics dismiss this explanation, however, saying that Sarkisian is simply keen to curry favor with Russian President Vladimir in the hope of clinging to power.