Zaruhi Postanjian, an outspoken opposition politician, on Wednesday denied a media report that her newly established political party is financed by a wealthy Russian businessman of Armenian descent highly critical of Armenia’s government.
She said at the same time that the Armenian-born tycoon, Ruben Grigorian, is her “good friend” and “one of the best representatives of the Armenian people” who approves of her political activities.
Postanjian held the founding congress of the Yerkir Tsirani (Country of Apricot) party on March 15 one month after splitting from Raffi Hovannisian’s opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party which she has represented in parliament for the past ten years. The new party did not run in parliamentary elections held on April 2. But it is one of the two opposition contenders in Yerevan’s upcoming mayoral election.
Postanjian declared at the congress that Yerkir Tsirani will strive to topple the government through a “velvet revolution.” She reaffirmed her strong support for radical opposition gunmen that seized a police station in Yerevan last July. The party favors a hard line on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Armenia’s relations with Turkey.
Postanjian also declared that Yerkir Tsirani expects to be financed and supported otherwise by many Diaspora Armenians. She did not name any of them.
An Armenian newspaper claimed on Wednesday that Grigorian, who owns a large Russian construction company, RUSTOG Invest, is the party’s main sponsor.
“No, we haven’t received financial assistance from him but he is one of my best friends,” Postanjian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Postanjian said she has only discussed domestic Armenian politics with him. “He understands that the political system has to be changed and he has publicly spoken about that,” she said.
“I think that he will share my ideological views because we are friends and have talked about all this,” added the 45-year-old mother of four.
In a March 15 appeal to Armenian nationals living in Russia, Grigorian branded Armenia’s current leaders “plunderers” who must be ousted as a result of the April 2 elections. He urged them to travel to Armenia and vote for a “prosperous homeland.”
Grigorian posted another statement on Armmuseum.ru on March 26 the day after three dozen other Russian-Armenian entrepreneurs set up a multimillion-dollar investment fund that will finance various business projects in Armenia. He denounced them as a “club of clans leading the country to a catastrophe.”
The driving force behind the fund is Samvel Karapetian, Russia’s wealthiest ethnic Armenian businessman. The Armenian-born billionaire is a strong backer of Prime Minister Karen Karapetian (no relation).