By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenian parliamentary leaders voiced their concerns about the alleged discrimination of thousands of ethnic Armenians in southern Russia as they met the visiting speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, Sergei Mironov, on Wednesday.
Hovannes Hovannisian, the chairman of the parliament committee on foreign affairs, said the simmering ethnic tensions in Russia’s Krasnodar region represent a “serious problem” that should be addressed by the Russian authorities.
The Krasnodar administration announced plans last month to deport hundreds of thousands of Armenians, Meskhetian Turks and other ethnic minorities that its say have illegally immigrated into the area since the Soviet collapse. Many of them are Armenian nationals. Liberal circles in Russia say illegal immigration is used by Krasnodar’s Communist governor, Aleksandr Tkachev, as a pretext to harass dark-skinned people from the Caucasus.
Tensions mounted further after the April 17 vandal attack on a local Armenian cemetery.
But Mironov, on a two-day official visit to Yerevan, was said to have played down their significance on Wednesday, telling Armenian officials that the situation in Krasnodar will have no impact on the Russian-Armenian relationship. According to another senior Armenian parliamentarian, Gagik Tadevosian, Mironov assured them that “a bunch of stupid vandals” will not spoil the close ties between the two countries.
Hovannisian accused Tkachev of refusing to cooperate with the Armenian authorities in defusing the tensions. But he said the visit to Krasnodar by an Armenian parliamentary delegation, delayed last week after Tkachev’s objections, will likely take place before the end of this month. He said the delegation will include representatives of the Armenian executive branch, including the ministry of culture, at the Krasnodar administration’s insistence.
“But we are not going to discuss cultural issues there,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL. “We are going to look for political solutions because at stake is the physical security of our compatriots.”