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Yerevan Denies Friction With Moscow


Armenia -- Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian speaks at a news conference in Yerevan, September 6, 2019.

Russia’s refusal to extradite indicted former Armenian officials and Armenia’s decision to grant asylum to a Russian anti-government activist is not a sign of discord between the two allied nations, Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian said on Friday.

“Interstate relations between Russia and Armenia have quite strong foundations and we don’t have any differences here,” told a news conference. “We have some processes of legal nature but at the interstate level are able to maintain the important agenda at the heart of which is our intention to deepen our allied relations.”

“There is and there can be no interconnection between these issues,” said Mnatsakanian.

It emerged on Tuesday that the Armenian Migration Service has granted asylum to a Russian anti-government activist who moved to Armenia in January after serving a four-year prison sentence in Russia. The government agency said the activist, Vitaly Shishkin, could be persecuted for his political views in Russia.

Shishkin reportedly used to be a senior member of a Russian nationalist movement that challenged President Vladimir Putin and was banned as extremist in 2015. He was arrested in 2014 and subsequently sentenced him to four years in prison on charges of calling for “mass disturbances” and spreading hate speech. A Russian human rights group recognized Shishkin as a political prisoner.

Yerevan’s decision came almost one month after the Russian authorities refused to extradite Mihran Poghosian, a former senior Armenian official facing corruption charges in Armenia.

Moscow also refused late last year to extradite Mikael Harutiunian, a former Armenian defense minister wanted by the Armenian authorities on coup charges. It argued that Harutiunian is a Russian citizen.

Harutiunian as well as another retired Armenian general, Yuri Khachaturov, and former President Robert Kocharian were charged in July 2018 with illegally using Armenian army units against opposition protesters in March 2008. The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the accusations as politically motivated.

Late last week Putin made a point of again congratulating Kocharian on his birthday anniversary. The Russian president described his former Armenian counterpart as a “true friend of Russia” who had “made a great contribution to developing today's Armenia.”

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