President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Karen Karapetian praised Gazprom’s strong presence in Armenia’s energy sector when they met with the chief executive of the Russian gas monopoly in Yerevan on Friday.
Alexei Miller, Gazprom’s Kremlin-linked boss, held separate meetings with the two leaders during his latest visit to Armenia, the second in eight months. Official Armenian sources said they discussed the Russian giant’s continued operations in the country but gave few details.
Sarkisian was quoted by his press office as commending Gazprom’s contribution to the “dynamic development and strengthening” of Russian-Armenian relations. He also praised its track record in Armenia, which buys more than 80 percent of its natural gas from the Russian giant.
Karapetian described Gazprom as a “reliable partner” that has contributed to his country’s “energy security.” According to an Armenian government statement, he discussed with Miller the company’s ongoing “investment projects” in Armenia.
In particular, the statement said, Gazprom plans to upgrade an underground gas storage facility located just north of Yerevan and build new gas distribution pipelines in the country by 2019. The state-run Russian company is the sole owner of the Armenian gas distribution network.
Karapetian was that network’s chief executive from 2001-2010. He lived and worked in Russia from 2011-2016, holding senior executive positions in local Gazprom subsidiaries.
Shortly after being appointed as Armenian prime minister last September, Karapetian used his Gazprom connections to secure a sizable reduction in domestic gas prices. Miller previously visited Yerevan in October.
In a recent radio interview, Karapetian insisted that his Gazprom background does not mean he is dependent on or linked to Russia’s government. “On the contrary, it can help us find solutions in certain difficult situations,” he said.
Armenian opposition figures and pundits have long expressed concern at the country’s heavy dependence on Russia for energy resources.