Russian President Vladimir Putin heaped praise on Robert Kocharian in another congratulatory message sent at the weekend to his former Armenian counterpart arrested on coup and corruption charges.
“During your many years of public service, you gained the deserved respect of the Armenian people and abroad and made a great contribution to developing today's Armenia and ensuring stability and security in the South Caucasus,” Putin wrote, congratulating Kocharian on his 65th birthday anniversary.
“We have known you as a true friend of Russia who has made great efforts to strengthen the allied relations between our nations,” Putin added in the message publicized by the Kremlin. He also wished Kocharian “good health, strength of mind and tenacity.”
Putin already made a pointing of telephoning Kocharian and congratulating the latter on his previous birthday anniversary. The phone came shortly after the former Armenian president was set free after spending about a month in detention on charges stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
Kocharian was again taken in custody in early December. He received New Year greetings from Putin two weeks later.
The ex-president, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, was also charged with bribery early this year. He denies all accusations leveled against him as politically motivated.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also alleged political motives behind the high-profile case following Kocharian’s first arrest in July 2018. Armenia’s government and law-enforcement authorities have repeatedly denied such motives.
Kocharian was again released from jail five days after going on trial on May 13. The Russian ambassador to Armenia, Sergey Kopyrkin, met with him on June 13, prompting criticism from political allies of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Kopyrkin was summoned to the Armenian Foreign Ministry because of that.
Kocharian was arrested for a third time on June 25 after Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s May 18 decision to free him pending the outcome of his trial.
Armenian officials maintain that Moscow’s gestures of support for Kocharian have not damaged Armenia’s close political, economic and military ties with Russia.
Yerevan will host a summit of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in October. Putin is expected to attend it along with the leaders of other ex-Soviet states making up the trade bloc.