Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov deplored on Thursday what he described as attempts to exploit the continuing street protests in Armenia against an electricity price hike for political purposes.
“A lot of attention is being paid to youth in forming a national agenda, including through the prism of so-called peaceful protests which are increasingly becoming the norm,” Lavrov told an international youth forum in Moscow. “You know how the color revolutions began -- the Maidan [movement] in Ukraine, the current events in Armenia.”
“There is a temptation to use them as well for whipping up anti-government sentiment, even though the root cause of these events is purely economic,” he said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. “But somebody, it seems, finds it useful to go further and develop these processes in a political direction.”
Lavrov did not specify whether he referred to Armenian opposition or civic groups or Western powers that have long been accused by Russia of trying to drive ex-Soviet states out of its orbit.
Russia has been extremely critical of “Euromaidan” movement in Ukraine that deposed the country’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych last year. It claims that the popular uprising in Kiev was engineered by the West.
The Russian government is more cautious on the “Electric Yerevan” protests, even if some pro-Kremlin politicians and pundits have compared them with the Ukrainian revolt. On June 24, two days after thousands of mostly young people occupied a central Yerevan avenue, one of Lavrov’s deputies, Grigori Karasin, urged the Armenian authorities to reach a compromise deal with the protesters.
A Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation discussed the controversy over Armenian energy tariffs when it met in Yerevan two days later. The Russian co-chair of the commission, Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, also discussed the matter separately with President Serzh Sarkisian and two Armenian cabinet members.
It was announced after those talks that the two sides agreed to launch an emergency audit of Armenia’s power distribution network owned by a Russian energy company. Many Armenians feel that they are forced to pay more for electricity because of fraud and mismanagement within the loss-making network. The Armenian government will subsidize the increased electricity prices until the release of the audit’s findings.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned Sarkisian to congratulate him on his 61st birthday anniversary. A Kremlin spokesman claimed afterwards that the two men did not discuss the energy tariffs because “this is an internal Armenian issue.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Armenian counterpart Hovik Abrahamian had a phone conversation on Wednesday. Abrahamian’s office said they discussed the results of the Russian-Armenian commission meeting but did not elaborate.
Earlier this year, Lavrov, whose father was an ethnic Armenian, accused unnamed foreign forces of seeking to gain “geopolitical advantages” from public outrage that was caused by the January 12 killings, apparently committed by a Russian soldier, of seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri.
Lavrov spoke just days after thousands of Gyumri residents took to the streets to demand that the soldier, Valery Permyakov, be extradited to Armenian law-enforcement authorities. Russian officials rejected those demands, saying that the suspect will be tried by a Russian court.
President Sarkisian announced during his June 26 meeting with Sokolov that Moscow has finally agreed to transfer the high-profile murder case to Armenian jurisdiction. Some Armenian observers linked the development with Russian fears relating to the “Electric Yerevan” protests.