The Armenian branch of U.S. billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF) on Wednesday accused radical anti-government forces of conducting an “unprecedented” smear campaign against it and its local partners.
“A large-scale counterpropaganda and an unprecedentedly aggressive information campaign, accompanied by hate speech and often overt calls for violence, is waged against the foundation and our partners for quite some time,” the OSF-Armenia director, Larisa Minasian, told a news conference.
Minasian said that the effort is aimed at preventing OSF from supporting various reforms announced by the Armenian government.
“We realize that the civil society’s potential to demand and support systemic changes in Armenia is what made us and our partners the target of this smear campaign,” she said. “Also targeted is public trust in our country’s democratic institutions, the legitimately elected National Assembly and the government formed by it.”
Minasian complained that some Armenian media outlets help OSF detractors spread false claims about Soros and activities financed by his charity in Armenia and other countries. She insisted in particular that the prominent philanthropist has never provoked or assisted in any anti-government revolt.
“George Soros made his fortune in the financial markets of democratic countries that are strictly regulated by regulatory bodies,” she added.
Minasian also dismissed claims that OSF has been promoting a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which would benefit Azerbaijan. “The foundation has never financed any propaganda of pacifism towards Azerbaijan or any initiative related to the Karabakh conflict,” she said.
Nationalist groups as well as some individual activists opposed to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government have increasingly attacked OSF in their public statements made since the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” They allege that the government is furthering Soros’s secret political agenda in Armenia which they say poses a serious threat to national security and traditional Armenian values. Some of them have gone as far as to claim that Soros was behind the “revolution” that brought Pashinian to power.
Minasian already shrugged off those claims during a March 2019 news conference in Yerevan. In a separate statement issued at the time, OSF-Armenia said it will continue to support “civil society organizations and all Armenians working to advance sustainable, systemic reforms.”
Over the past two decades OSF has provided a total of about $53 million in grants to Armenian non-governmental organizations and individuals. They have been spent on hundreds of projects implemented in a wide range of areas, including education, human rights, judicial reforms and media.