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Pashinian Downplays Russian Criticism


Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks to reporters in Yerevan, 21 May 2018.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian played down on Friday Russia’s strong criticism of serious accusations that were brought against former senior Armenian officials shortly after he came to power in May.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on July 31 that the high-profile criminal cases contradict the new Armenian government’s earlier assurances that it has “no intention to persecute its predecessors for political motives.” “In the last few days, we have repeatedly conveyed our concerns to the Armenian leadership,” he said in what was rare criticism of Yerevan publicly voiced by Moscow.

Lavrov referred to the prosecutions of former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, former Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian and former Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Khachaturov, the current secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The three men are facing coup charges stemming from the March 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.

Pashinian seemed unfazed by the Russian reaction when he spoke to reporters during a visit to Armenia’s northern Tavush province. “I think that this is a different situation,” he said when asked to comment on Lavrov’s statement. “All of us, including our Russian partners, need to adapt to this situation. So everything is normal.”

In that context, Pashinian denied any connection between the diplomatic dispute with Moscow and his decision to hold a rally in Yerevan on August 17. He said the rally is timed to coincide with his first 100 days in office.

Pashinian, 43, was elected prime minister by the Armenian parliament on May 8 after weeks of mass protests that brought down the country’s previous government.

An Armenian law-enforcement agency moved to arrest both Kocharian and Khachaturov on July 27. A court in Yerevan remanded the ex-president in pre-trial custody but granted bail to Khachaturov.

The separate rulings were handed down several hours after a phone conversation between Lavrov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian. Khachaturov not only remained free was also allowed to return to Moscow and resume his duties as CSTO secretary general on August 4.

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