Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian visited Moscow this week to meet with lawmakers representing President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party, it emerged on Wednesday.
“They discussed prospects for deepening cooperation between the Prosperous Armenia and United Russia parties in the parliamentary format,” Tsarukian’s spokeswoman, Iveta Tonoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). She did not name any of the Russian State Duma members or give other details of the talks.
It was thus not clear whether Tsarukian and senior BHK lawmakers accompanying him also discussed the internal political situation in Armenia with their Russian colleagues.
The BHK leader flew to Moscow less than a week after holding a conference of opposition groups to announce the impending resumption of anti-government protests organized by its party and its opposition allies. Tsarukian, who is one of Armenia’s richest men, warned President Serzh Sarkisian against pressing ahead with a controversial constitutional reform which his political opponents believe is aimed at prolonging his rule.
Just two days after that gathering, a BHK activist was kidnapped and beaten up by unknown men in an attack which Tsarukian’s party claims was orchestrated by the Armenian government. The latter angrily denied the allegations.
Tsarukian and the top leaders of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun (Heritage) parties are due to meet on Sunday to discuss their further joint steps.
Unlike Zharangutyun, the BHK and the HAK have tacitly supported Armenia’s recent accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in what some observers see as an attempt to secure Russia’s support for or at least neutrality towards their anti-government campaign. Parliament deputies from the two parties overwhelmingly voted for the ratification of Yerevan’s accession treaty with the EEU in December. Still, Tsarukian and several other BHK lawmakers, notably former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, did not take part in that vote.