A senior member of the Russian legislature has reminded Armenia of the Ukrainian experience, stressing that having a large number of non-governmental organizations advocating integration with the European Union is “unacceptable”.
At a press conference in Moscow on Thursday, Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the International Affairs Committee at the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, at the same time expressed a hope that Armenia will “manage to avoid Ukraine’s experience of facing a choice” between Eurasian and European integrations.
Two years ago Armenia was on track to sign an association agreement with the European Union as part of the Eastern Partnership Program that also involved Ukraine and four other former Soviet nations. But in September 2013 under apparent pressure from Moscow authorities in Yerevan made a U-turn opting instead for integration with the Russian-led customs union.
Ukraine persisted with its European integration policy, ousting President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, but Russia responded by annexing its southernmost peninsula of Crimea and later also backed separatist movements in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which led to deadly hostilities between Ukraine’s government forces and pro-Russian rebels.
The Russian senator, however, insisted that it is the “either-or” demands of the EU that cripple countries like Ukraine.
“The position of ‘either you are with us or with them’ has already destroyed or almost destroyed Ukraine and could destroy any other country if the question is raised consistently and in a straightforward manner,” said Kosachev, stressing that having 350 NGOs “working against Eurasian integration and in favor of Armenia’s closer ties with the European Union is unacceptable”.
Remarkably, speaking about Russia-Azerbaijan relations, Kosachev said that in the Caucasus region Azerbaijan is Moscow’s “most important economic and political partner”, while Armenia, which joined the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union this year, according to the Russian senator, is Moscow’s “closest” partner.
Kosachev expressed his gratitude to Baku for its “very caring attitude” towards the Russian language and ethnic Russians who live in Azerbaijan.
“Of course, Azerbaijan has other partners and its palette of choices is much broader than that of Armenia and Georgia, but I see no insurmountable obstacle for the successful development of Russian-Azerbaijani relations,” said Kosachev, as quoted by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.
At the press conference the Russian senator also spoke about Russo-Georgian relations. He said that seeing how the Russia-Azerbaijan and Russia-Armenia relations are developing, Georgia begins to understand that by moving away from Russia it “misses out on benefits and opportunities”.