Russia’s ambassador to Armenia effectively reaffirmed on Wednesday President Vladimir Putin’s plans to visit Yerevan and attend a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) that will be held there next month.
Some Armenian pro-opposition media outlets and commentators have speculated that Putin may cancel his first trip to Armenia since the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” due to the Armenian authorities’ refusal to free Robert Kocharian, his former Armenian counterpart facing corruption and coup charges. Putin again heaped praise on Kocharian when he congratulated the latter on his 65th birthday anniversary late last month.
Russian Ambassador Sergey Kopyrkin said Armenians “should” expect Putin to visit their country next month. “Do you have different information?” he told reporters. “I don’t.”
“We proceed from the fact that a session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (the EEU’s top decision-making body) will be held here,” said Kopyrkin. “As Armenia’s deputy foreign minister said in the parliament yesterday, it was the common decision of the heads of state. What questions can there be?”
“I receive information calling into question President Putin’s visit from media. I cannot comment on those reports because I have no other information,” added Kopyrkin.
The Armenian Migration Service granted last week asylum to a Russian anti-government activist who moved to Armenia in January after serving a four-year prison sentence in Russia. The unprecedented move came almost one month after the Russian authorities refused to extradite Mihran Poghosian, a former senior Armenian official charged with corruption 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.
Kopyrkin denied any political motives behind the Russian moves. “Just because someone is in Russia doesn’t mean that he has received political asylum,” he said. “As regards Mihran Poghosian, according to my information, we are talking about a legal process, about the provision of necessary documents [to the Russian authorities.]”
Moscow is not sheltering the fugitive Armenians to send a message to Yerevan, insisted the envoy. “Russia’s [sole] message to Armenia’s new authorities is very clear: we are strategic partners, allies and brotherly countries and peoples,” he said. “Russia’s position on this issue has not changed in any way. To my knowledge, it corresponds to the Armenian leadership’s approach.”
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian likewise denied any friction between Moscow and Yerevan on September 6. “Interstate relations between Russia and Armenia have quite strong foundations and we don’t have any differences here,” he said.