Ukraine’s interim government on Thursday refrained from publicly criticizing official Yerevan for accepting the outcome of a disputed referendum in its autonomous republic of Crimea that led to its incorporation into Russia.
The Ukrainian ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Kukhta, said President Serzh Sarkisian’s statement on the issue made on Wednesday has been officially communicated to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry. He pointedly declined to comment on the statement, saying that every nation is free to adopt a position on a particular issue.
Moreover, Kukhta seemed to downplay the moves’ damage to his country’s ties with Armenia. “In my view, even now there are prospects for improving those relations further,” he told a news conference.
Like much of the international community, the Kiev government, which took over late last month following a popular revolt against President Viktor Yanukovich, has denounced the Crimea vote as illegal and accused Russia of unleashing military aggression against Ukraine.
One of the leaders of the Ukrainian uprising, Oleg Tyahnibok of the nationalist Freedom party represented in the interim government, condemned Armenia as well as Kazakhstan for effectively recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Reports from Kiev said Tyahnibok demanded that the Ukrainian ambassadors to the two countries be recalled in protest.
Sarkisian’s decision on the Crimean referendum was also criticized by pro-Western Armenian opposition politicians. “Armenia should not have taken such a step at this juncture,” Armen Martirosian, the deputy chairman of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Martirosian argued that Armenia has not formally recognized even Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto independence from Azerbaijan. He said the Sarkisian administration also avoided recognizing Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. Its decision to side with Russia now reflects the government’s “almost zero immunity” to Russian pressure, he claimed.
But another major opposition party, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), agreed with the government’s position on the matter. “Regardless of the conditions in which the referendum on Crimea’s fate was held, what happened there was a clear expression of the will of the Crimean people,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader.