Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the wife of Robert Kocharian, his former Armenian counterpart arrested on controversial coup and corruption charges, late on Tuesday at the end of his latest visit to Armenia.
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, and Kocharian’s spokesman, Victor Soghomonian, confirmed Armenian media reports about the meeting but gave no details. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Soghomonian shed no light on issues that were discussed by Putin and Bella Kocharian.
Putin reportedly spoke to her at the Russian Embassy in Yerevan right after holding talks with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on the sidelines of a Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) summit. The Russian president then headed to Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport where held another meeting with Pashinian before returning to Moscow.
The Yerevan daily “Hraparak” quoted a spokesman for Pashinian as saying that the two leaders did not discuss Kocharian’s prosecution.
Putin has repeatedly signaled support for Kocharian ever since the latter was arrested and charged in connection with the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan shortly after Pashinian came to power in last year’s “Velvet Revolution.” The Russian Foreign Ministry openly alleged political motives behind the criminal case in July 2018. Armenia’s government and law-enforcement authorities deny such motives.
Putin heaped praise on Kocharian when he congratulated the latter on his 65th birthday anniversary on August 31. He described the former Armenian president as a “true friend of Russia” who had strengthened Russian-Armenian relations and contributed to regional security.
Putin already made a pointing of telephoning Kocharian on his previous birthday anniversary. The phone call came shortly after the former Armenian president was released from custody.
Kocharian was again arrested 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.
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 Pashinian’s political allies. 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. The ex-president’s loyalists claim the opposite.