A businessman from the central Armenian town of Abovian on Thursday apologized to Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian to end a bitter dispute that has left his main company on the brink of bankruptcy.
The businessman, Artur Harutiunian, fell out with Tsarukian, one of the country’s richest men, openly challenging the latter in an area that has long been considered his de facto fiefdom. Some media reports linked that with the BHK’s worsening relations with President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), of which Harutiunian is a member.
Harutiunian attacked Tsarukian in newspaper interviews, going as far as to mention a derogatory nickname widely attributed to the BHK leader. Harutiunian himself is better known to Abovian residents as “Butcher.”
Early this year Tsarukian launched, through his eponymous charity, free bus services between Yerevan and Abovian and another regional town, Charentsavan. The move dealt a severe blow to Harutiunian’s King Delux bus company that operates Yerevan-Abovian and Yerevan-Charentsavan routes on a commercial basis. The nearly 100 people driving its buses also suffered as a result. They went on strike and threatened to block a major highway earlier this month.
In a written statement, Harutiunian said he “feel[s] sorry” for his remarks about Tsarukian. “I always highly assessed the work that has been done by Tsarukian for our people and state as well as his benevolent activities,” he said, adding that he will ask the tycoon to find “dignified solutions” to the dispute.
A spokeswoman for Tsarukian, Ivetta Tonoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the two men have already met. She said Harutiunian’s statement “set the record straight.”
The statement came the day after the Armenian Ministry of Transport and Communications that King Delux and the Gagik Tsarukian Foundation have reached an agreement. A ministry statement said the charity will continue its operations in a way that “will not disrupt the normal course of regular transport of passengers.” It did not elaborate.
Tonoyan also could not give details of the deal. She said only that Tsarukian will continue to sponsor free busing.
The King Delux director, Artur Dallakian, declined to comment when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service. The bus company last month asked the Ministry of Transport and the State Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition to launch anti-trust proceedings against Tsarukian.