Armenia’s law-enforcement stands ready for possible protests during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s upcoming visit to the country, Police Chief Vladimir Gasparian said on Tuesday.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) the top police official revealed that he treated “philosophically” the calls by some activists in Armenia to meet the visiting Russian leader with protests.
There is no official confirmation of the date of Putin’s visit to Armenia yet, but the governor’s office in the country’s northwestern province of Shirak expects the Russian president to arrive on December 2. Putin reportedly plans to arrive in the Shirak regional center of Gyumri, the city that hosts the Russian military base in Armenia, and only then travel to Yerevan.
Some civil and human rights activists in Armenia have been calling for protest actions against what they describe as “Putinism”. They believe that the U-turn in Armenia’s policy of European integration and the decision to move towards the Russia-led Customs Union were actually the result of Putin’s policy of threats. The anti-Putin activists also find it important that the Armenian public should show its negative attitude towards the Kremlin boss.
“This is not something new for our society to want to do anything that will distort things,” commented Police Chief Gasparian. At the same time, he stressed that the Armenian police were prepared for such actions. “Have you ever seen an unprepared police in the recent times? Of course, we are prepared,” he added.
Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian paid a visit to the Shirak province on Tuesday and while in Gyumri he also spoke about preparations for the Russian leader’s trip. He said that heads of different Russian provinces will also be on Putin’s delegation arriving in Armenia.
“This year we will hold another regional forum so that leaders of Russian provinces have a better opportunity to learn about the potential of our provinces and develop joint projects on this basis, projects concerning investments, cooperation, increasing the trade turnover, setting up new enterprises,” said the head of the Armenian government. “So this is a unique opportunity for the Armenian businessmen to present to their Russian counterparts Armenia’s investment attractiveness and attract new investments.”
Sarkisian brushed aside the recent media speculation about plans for Gyumri to be turned into a ‘closed’ city with travel and residency restrictions due to the presence of the Russian military base there.
“Gyumri has been and will remain the most open city in the world. There are no such plans,” the prime minister said. “We are very glad that the president of Russia will be visiting not only Yerevan but also Gyumri,” he added.