Parliament speaker Galust Sahakian on Friday added his voice to public condemnations of a controversial pro-Russian Armenian activist who has declared that Armenia must eventually become a part of Russia.
The Moscow-based activist, Andranik Nikoghosian, claimed in an interview last week that Armenians will overwhelmingly vote for their country’s incorporation into Russia in a referendum that he said will take place in the near future.
His remarks provoked a storm of harsh criticism from Armenian media, civil society members and politicians mostly in opposition to the government. They also demanded the revocation of state awards which Nikoghosian has received from several senior Armenian officials in recent years.
In particular, Edmon Marukian, an independent parliamentarian, wrote to Sahakian earlier this week, urging him to withdraw a parliamentary Medal of Honor which the previous National Assembly speaker, Hovik Abrahamian, gave to Nikoghosian two years ago.
“I certainly welcome Edmon Marukian’s anger and I welcome those news websites that are up in arms,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I think that [statement by Nikoghosian] deserves a public condemnation and rebuke,” he said.
Sahakian made clear at the same time that he will not strip Nikoghosian of the parliamentary award because he believes there is no legal procedure for doing that. Marukian, who is a lawyer by training, disputed that assertion, saying that he and his attorney friends are ready to help the speaker substantiate such a punitive measure in legal terms.
“Any assault on our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity must be denounced, including through legal procedures,” said the lawmaker.
Nikoghosian, 40, rose to prominence after setting up in 2008 a youth organization promoting closer ties between Armenia and Russia. His activities earned him in 2010 a Russian Order of Friendship awarded by then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Nikoghosian has lived in Moscow ever since becoming in 2012 chairman of a pro-Kremlin group uniting young people from ex-Soviet states.
Nikoghosian made his controversial statement just a few weeks after a Russian woman accused him of beating her up and attempting to rape her. Reports in the Russian press have said that police in Russia are investigating the allegations strongly denied by the Armenian activist.