A senior Armenian lawmaker downplayed on Thursday potential consequences for Armenia of a new U.S. government list of Russian officials and wealthy businesspeople who might risk U.S. sanctions.
The so-called Kremlin Report released by the U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday names 114 senior Russian political figures and 96 "oligarchs" who U.S. authorities say have gained wealth or power through association with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Although the list itself does not impose sanctions, its creation was mandated by the U.S. Congress in a law aimed to increase pressure on Russia in response to Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its military intervention in Ukraine, and other actions that have caused U.S. concern.
The list includes ethnic Armenian businessmen Samvel Karapetian, Danil Khachaturov and Sergei Galitsky. Karapetian, who was born and raised in Armenia, has extensive business interests in the South Caucasus country and has pledged further large-scale investments in its economy. Some commentators in Yerevan have suggested that possible U.S. sanctions against the tycoon would put his business projects at serious risk.
Armen Ashotian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, sought to allay these fears. “I don’t think that we should view the inclusion of our compatriots on that list as a great tragedy, especially given that it’s not known and clear what consequences the inclusion on that list will have,” he told reporters.
“The list does not mean that all those individuals are guilty or subject to sanctions,” said Ashotian, who is also a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration earlier notified Congress that it will not impose new sanctions on Russia at this time. However, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that "in the near future, you'll see additional sanctions." Mnuchin dismissed criticism that the list was haphazardly assembled on the basis of media reports,
Putin was quick to condemn the report, calling it an “unfriendly act" that will "complicate the already grave situation that Russian-American relations are in and inflict damage, no doubt, on international relations as a whole." But he signaled that Moscow's response would be muted.
Ashotian acknowledged that Armenia will not benefit from U.S.-Russian “political and economic clashes.” “Armenia should continue to stay away from confrontational agendas,” he said. “Thank God, America’s and Russia’s interests converge with regard to the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
One of Karapetian’s new business projects calls for the construction of a major hydroelectric plant in northern Armenia.The Russian-Armenian tycoon has pledged to invest at least $22.5 million in the $150 million project strongly backed by the Armenian government. He hopes to attract the rest of the required funding from other private investors as well as international lending institutions.
The U.S. Robbins Company, which manufactures giant tunnel-boring machines, has expressed readiness to participate in the project. It signed a relevant memorandum of understanding with a Karapetian-owned firm in October.
Armenian Energy Minister Ashot Manukian and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills attended the signing ceremony in Yerevan. Mills also spoke at the event, reportedly calling the preliminary deal a major “achievement” of U.S.-Armenian relations.