A controversial Russian television host blacklisted by the European Union for his aggressively pro-Kremlin stance deplored on Wednesday the declining use of the Russian language in Armenia, calling that a serious threat to Russian-Armenian relations.
In a tense exchange with Armenian pro-government lawmakers, Dmitry Kiselyov warned that Armenia will put its security alliance with Russia at serious risk unless it grants Russian an official status.
Kiselyov, who hosts a prime-time weekly news show on Russian state TV and runs a state news agency, issued the blunt warning at a meeting in Yerevan with several members of the Armenian parliament which was open to the press. It was supposed to focus on the role of non-governmental organizations in government policy making.
The meeting reportedly turned tense after one of the Armenian deputies, Hayk Babukhanian, urged Russia to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan. Kiselyov rejected the appeal, saying that there are more important security challenges facing the Armenians.
“For instance, Russia is the guarantor of Armenia’s security but the Russian language is not widespread in Armenia,” Yerkir.am quoted him as saying. “You have banished Russian from Armenia. That means you have banished Russia from Armenia.
“Let’s talk honestly. It is in Armenia’s interests to reinstate Russian. Armenia should work in that direction. It’s a real and serious problem.”
“There are no Russian [public] schools left in Yerevan, Russian culture is becoming secondary, and that is dangerous. Today I took a taxi here. The driver, a 20-year-old guy, couldn’t even count [in Russian,]” Kiselyov, added, according to Epress.am.
Hermine Naghdalian, a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament chairing the meeting, brushed aside Kiselyov’s complaints. She argued that Russian remains a mandatory subject in all Armenian schools.
However, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, a former Russian ambassador to Armenia also present at the meeting, added his voice to the pro-Kremlin media chief’s concerns. Kovalenko said that a greater use of Russian in Armenia is essential for closer integration with Russia sought by President Serzh Sarkisian. “You can’t choose one union for security-related integration and another one for cultural purposes,” agreed Kiselyov.
Kiselyov, 59, is primarily famous for anchoring a highly opinionated news show aired by one of Russia’s two stated-controlled national TV channels. Using dramatic language, he harshly criticizes the West and vehemently defends Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, notably on the crisis in Ukraine.
Kiselyov, who also heads a recently formed state news agency, Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), famously assured viewers in March that Russia is the only nation that could turn the United States into "radioactive ash." He also praised Putin for giving U.S. President Barack Obama a fresh crop of grey hair over Crimea.
Citing his anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian performances on television, the European Union included Kiselyov on a sanctions blacklist of Russian officials later in March. The EU called him a "central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine." Kiselyov condemned the move as a “blatant attack on freedom of speech."