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Russian Intelligence Chief Visits Armenia


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (R) meets with Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, in Yerevan, 19 February 2018.

The influential head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergei Naryshkin, reportedly praised close ties between Russian and Armenian security services during a visit to Yerevan on Monday.

Naryshkin held separate meetings with President Serzh Sarkisian and the chief of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), Georgi Kutoyan.

An NSS statement said he discussed with Kutoyan “issues related to the fight against international terrorism and other manifestations of transnational crime.” It gave no details.

Sarkisian, who ran the NSS in the 1990s, said Russian-Armenian relations are “developing dynamically” in “all areas” when he received Naryshkin later in the day. It is only natural for the security services of the two allied nations to cooperate closely through “intelligence sharing, assessment of the situation and constant active interaction,” he was quoted by the presidential press office as saying.

According to a statement released by the office, Naryshkin noted the SVR’s “close links” with Armenia’s NSS and “the proper level” of their cooperation.” He briefed the Armenian leader on their ongoing joint activities and “further plans,” the statement added without elaborating.

Naryshkin is a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin who managed the Kremlin staff before serving as speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament from 2011-2016. He repeatedly visited Armenia in his capacity as State Duma speaker. Putin appointed Naryshkin as head of the Russian spy agency in September 2016.

Naryshkin made international headlines recently after it emerged that he secretly visited Washington and met top U.S. intelligence officials in January. According to the Russian ambassador to the United States, they discussed “the joint struggle against terrorism.”

It was not clear whether political developments in Armenia were also on the agenda of Naryshkin’s trip to Yerevan. Sarkisian will serve out his final presidential term on April 9. He is widely expected to remain in power as prime minister. Russian officials have not publicly commented on the outgoing president’s political future.

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