Russia has accused unnamed foreign forces of exploiting public outrage caused by last week’s slaughter of seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri for “geopolitical” purposes.
“We are seeing attempts to politicize this situation,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday. “They emanate not from Armenia’s leadership or Russia’s leadership. There are quite a few [forces] keen to use this tragedy for obtaining some geopolitical advantages.”
“This is disgusting, this is unacceptable,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow. “This is unworthy of the proud Armenian people, who, I am sure, will not succumb to such provocations. I am convinced that Russian-Armenian relations -- our alliance and strategic partnership -- will not suffer.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, likewise claimed late on Tuesday that “somebody is trying to politicize and use this tragedy as an instrument for whipping up anti-Russian sentiment.” “We are counting on the wisdom of the Armenian people, who have seen a lot in their history and know just how close our countries and peoples are,” Peskov told GALA, an independent Armenian TV station.
Neither Lavrov, whose father is an ethnic Armenian, nor Peskov named any groups or foreign powers involved in the alleged anti-Russian campaign. They might have they referred to unprecedented anti-Russian protests in Armenia that followed the January 12 killings blamed on a Russian soldier.
Scores of people rallied in Gyumri last week to demand that the suspect kept in Russian military custody be handed over to Armenian law-enforcement authorities. Some of them clashed with riot police outside the Russian consulate in Armenia’s second largest city.
Some Russian pro-government pundits were quick to blame pro-Western Armenian groups for the unprecedented unrest in a country where public opinion has traditionally favored close ties with Russia. They claimed that those forces are trying to undermine the Russian-Armenian alliance and even force Moscow to withdraw a Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri.
The non-partisan organizers of the Gyumri protests and smaller gatherings staged in Yerevan strongly deny using the family massacre to push any political agendas. They say the crime can be solved only if the Russian soldier is placed under Armenian jurisdiction.
“We are grieving together with Armenia and will do everything to ensure that this is crime does no go unpunished and its perpetrator gets the most severe punishment,” Lavrov said, according to the TASS news agency. “We will do everything to prevent such things from happening again.”