Armenia is committed to its international obligations and has never restricted the free movement of its citizens, which is a fundamental human right, a representative of the Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, commenting on a statement by the Ukrainian embassy in Yerevan regarding travel to Russia-annexed Crimea.
“If necessary, the Armenian Foreign Ministry provides travel advice on security issues,” spokeswoman Anna Naghdalian added.
On November 11, the Ukrainian embassy reacted to media reports about the visit to Crimea by a large group of Armenian citizens.
“Most participants of that group have repeatedly violated Ukraine’s legislation regarding visits to the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In this regard we would like to remind you that Ukraine’s legislation envisages not only administrative, but also criminal responsibility for violating the order of entry to occupied territories,” it said.
The Ukrainian embassy also expressed concern over reports that “members of the group allegedly discussed with representatives of the Russian occupation authorities the issue of ‘developing economic, trade and tourist relations between Armenia and Crimea’.” “In addition, some Armenian media affiliated with Russia have reported that the indicated persons introduced themselves as ‘representatives of the Republic of Armenia’, which is alarming,” the embassy added.
Embassy officials told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday that one of those involved in the group was Hayk Babukhanian, a former member of the Armenian parliament and ally of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia who is known for his openly pro-Russian stance.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), Babukhanian confirmed having made the controversial statement while visiting Crimea. Asked whether he had any concerns that such statements made in Crimea could affect Armenian-Ukrainian relations, Babukhanian said: “There is a right of nations to self-determination, which is also used by Armenians in declaring their self-determination in Nagorno-Karabakh. I reject and condemn all neocolonial aspirations, including by the Ukrainian embassy.”
Member of the Armenian-Ukrainian friendship group at Armenia’s National Assembly Mikayel Zolian, who represents the governing My Step alliance, stressed that Babukhanian was in Crimea as a private person and that his thoughts expressed there “should not be interpreted by our friendly state, Ukraine, as official Yerevan’s view.”
“Mr. Babukhanian does not present the official position of Armenia. The official position of Armenia is presented by the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs. Therefore, wherever Mr. Babukhanian went, whatever he said or did should not be the subject of our discussion,” Zolian said.
Despite repeatedly voting at the United Nations along the lines of its key ally, Russia, when it comes to resolutions on Ukraine, Armenia officially does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.
In March 2014, Armenia’s then President Serzh Sarkisian irked the Ukrainian government with a statement welcoming a disputed referendum in Crimea that led to its annexation by Russia. The Ukrainian government responded by briefly recalling its ambassador from Yerevan for consultations.
Later that same year Ukraine warned Armenian authorities against allowing a Russian airline to operate direct flights to occupied Crimea. Yerevan then swiftly denied any such plans.