A group of ethnic Armenian employees of the International Airport of Sochi issued a statement this week, claiming that the airport authorities in this southern Russian city have shown a discriminative approach to them recently by seeking to force them out of jobs on ethnic grounds.
The statement was signed by a total of 29 people. An RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent in Russia talked to some of these people, who alleged an order “from above”.
Sargis Margarian, one of the staff members at the Sochi airport who signed the statement, said that they were told unofficially that there was an order “from above” to make all ethnic Armenians quit their jobs -- by offering them to do so of their own will.
“I haven’t submitted an application [about quitting the job]. I’m going to fight against them. There has never been any conflict between ethnic Armenians and the administration of the airport. We don’t understand what it is. We will go as far as turning to the Prosecutor’s Office,” Margarian said.
The man stressed that if the case reaches the court he is ready to testify that he was asked to quit the job because he is an Armenian. “This is what I was told,” said Margarian, a resident of the city where some 20 percent of the 425,000-strong population is ethnic Armenians.
Ashot Karagechian, another ethnic Armenian employee of the Sochi airport, said: “Everything that is said in the statement is absolutely true. I confirm every line of that statement.” The man still found it difficult to name reasons for such an approach towards Armenians.
Another ethnic Armenian employee, Albert Minasian, said: “My immediate supervisor, our engineer, came up to me and said in a low voice: ‘You know, some nonsense is happening, but there’s been an order from above to sack Armenians.’ He then advised that I submit an application and quit my job. But I’m not stupid to do that.”
The Sochi airport is owned by Basel Aero, a company of Russian magnate Oleg Deripaska who has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Anna Shalimova, head of the company’s press service, denied the accusations made by the group of ethnic Armenian staffers. She said that the airport employs representatives of different ethnicities and that the company’s personnel policies are in line with the Russian legislation.
“But a small group of people who recently stopped working at the company deliberately use their ethnic identity to demand special conditions for them. We believe that apart from not being within the legal field, the activities of this group of people incite inter-ethnic hatred, which is unacceptable,” said Shalimova.
At least the people that the RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent talked to insisted that they are currently employed by the airport and are not former workers as stated by the company’s representative.