Armenia must not forge closer links with Russia at the expense of its integration with the European Union, a prominent Soviet-era dissident running for president said on Wednesday.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Paruyr Hayrikian was asked about successive Armenian governments’ delicate balancing act between Russia and the West.
“A balancing act is a very good thing but I see nothing to balance,” Hayrikian said. “Armenia has adopted a clear orientation towards the European value system. We must therefore not join anything that runs counter to our intent to move closer to the European Union.”
Hayrikian, who spent 17 years in Soviet labor camps for agitating for Armenia’s independence, also called for a revision of a controversial Russian-Armenian agreement signed in 2002.
Under that agreement, five state-run Armenian enterprises, including a large thermal power plant, were handed over to Russia in payment of Yerevan’s $100 million debt to Moscow. The deal was criticized by some political opponents of then President Robert Kocharian.
“My election platform says that Russia should be offered to set up a Russian-Armenian economic commission to jointly examine the unprecedented assets-for-debt deal,” said Hayrikian. “If Russia does not agree to that, then we can carry out that revision with the help of the World Bank.”
“Russia wrote off $100 billion in debts owed by its friends and enemies,” he claimed. “What made it enter Armenia and start ruining things here for the sake of $100 million? It’s a matter of principle.”
“As a friend, Russia’s current authorities must say, ‘Yes, it was a mistake; sorry Armenians, we were wrong,’” added Hayrikian.
Hayrikian, 63, who leads a small party called the National Self-Determination Union, was a major player in Armenian politics in the 1990s. He ran as a candidate in three presidential elections held at the time but has not been active on the political arena for the past decade.