By Ruzanna Stepanian
A Moscow-based Armenian tycoon argues that racially motivated attacks in Russia affect Armenians to a lesser degree than representatives of other non-Slavic ethnic minorities.
Addressing the concerns over the recent killings of two ethnic Armenians in Murmansk and near Moscow, Ara Abrahamian, the president of the Union of Armenians of Russia (UAR), told Armenian intellectuals at the Writers’ Union in Yerevan on Monday that one shouldn’t think that only Armenians become victims of ethnic violence and get killed. On the opposite, he said, statistics shows that representatives of other ethnic groups, for example Azerbaijanis, are killed more frequently in Russia.
“One killed Armenian is already too many. But Russia is a big country. Armenians are killed not only because they are Armenians, but they are killed because of their ‘wrong color of hair’. There is no deliberate murder of Armenians,” Abrahamian said, adding that much fewer Armenians than Azerbaijanis or Georgians or representatives of other [non-Slavic] ethnic groups are murdered in Russia.
According to Abrahamian, indeed there are some problems in Russia’s law-enforcement bodies when they try to soften the motives of crimes, besides corresponding work is not being done in public circles to prevent such cases. But, he said, it doesn’t mean that Russian authorities encourage such crimes.
The killings of two ethnic Armenians in the last couple of weeks sparked a fresh outcry in Armenia. Scores of young people in Yerevan signed a petition last Friday addressed to Armenia’s foreign minister protesting Yerevan’s inaction and lack of policies on what they believe to be crimes committed against Armenians in Russia on ethnic grounds.
Chairman of the UAR Murmansk regional community, businessman Artur Harutiunian was killed next to his house on November 16. Earlier, on November 11, an Armenian teenage boy, Narek Kocharian, was stabbed to death on a railway near Moscow.
Galust Sahakian, who heads the parliamentary faction of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, told Armenian media on November 17 that it is time the Armenian government took “serious steps” in response to the ongoing wave of killings of Armenians in Russia.
Heghine Bisharian of the opposition Orinats Yerkir party argued that the Armenian authorities are partly to blame for the wave of killings as they have not created favorable economic conditions in Armenia that would persuade Armenians who emigrated to Russia in search of livelihood to return.
“It was, indeed, a great loss for us,” Abrahamian said when asked about the murder of the leader of the Armenian community of Murmansk. “He [Harutiunian] had been doing a lot to organize Armenians, had close ties with Armenia. Investigation is underway and it is in the center of our attention,” Abrahamian said, adding that it is yet very early to express any opinion as “investigators should be allowed to do their work.”
Abrahamian said, however, that Harutiunian’s murder was not connected with his being Armenia. He said he was a businessman and is likely to have become a victim of “clashing interests.”
Abrahamian complained that they do not get Armenia’s assistance in preventing such cases. Meanwhile, he said, when a citizen of Armenia is killed in Russia, Armenia must protest it vigorously.
Abrahamian also said that Armenia must clearly express its policy towards Georgia in view of the Russian-Georgian tensions. Russian-Georgian relations must not affect Armenia and if they do, then in Abrahamian’s opinion Georgia must be criticized.
“Georgia should notify in advance. In case of a blockade it must give us a way, a corridor,” Abrahamian said.
Speaking about the upcoming elections in Armenia, the leader of Russian Armenians said he is going to participate in the elections but within the framework of the law. Commenting on what it means, Abrahamian said that more than 500,000 citizens of Armenia who are members of the Union of Armenians of Russia live in the Russian Federation today. And so the Union must participate in the electoral processes and express its opinion.
Currently, the organization led by Abrahamian studies the political field in Armenia, what party presents what program and what political views they have. In January 2007 the Union of Armenians of Russia is going to announce what political force it will support in the upcoming elections.