Armenian parliamentarians say they hope that the current political crisis in Belarus will not take a violent course and the situation there will be resolved peacefully.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) member of the Armenian parliament’s pro-government My Step faction Mikael Zolian said that violence is unacceptable in any situation.
“Violence has never solved such problems and I think that in this case it won’t solve any problem either. A peaceful resolution of the situation is necessary,” the lawmaker said.
At the same time, Zolian said that both parliamentarians and government officials in Armenia should exercise restraint in commenting on the events in Belarus. “I would not like to comment on issues related to the internal affairs of Belarus. I believe that the people of Belarus should resolve this situation themselves, and it would be wrong for other countries, including us, to propose any solutions,” he said.
Protests swept across Belarus after the country’s incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was declared a victor in an August 9 presidential election that the opposition says were rigged in favor of the longtime autocratic leader.
Lukashenka’s main challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has fled Belarus for neighboring Lithuania, refused to recognize Lukashenka’s victory, calling on her supporters to stage protests to seek an election rerun.
At least two people have been killed, hundreds have been injured, and thousands arrested in the government crackdown against protesters in Belarus.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who came to power as a result of widespread anti-government protests in May 2018 and earlier spent nearly two years in prison after being convicted of organizing mass disturbances during 2008 postelection protests, congratulated Lukashenka on his disputed win hours after Belarus’s Central Election Commission announced the preliminary results on August 10.
Pashinian’s move immediately drew criticism from his political opponents and some leading human rights activists who believe the Armenian leader took a hasty step.
Only a handful of world leaders have congratulated Lukashenka on his disputed election win. Among them are Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s leader Xi Jinping. The European Union has said it does not recognize the results, and the United States has expressed deep concern over the election results and the unrest, with President Donald Trump describing the situation unfolding in Belarus as “terrible.”
Zolian, a member of the Pashinian-led My Step bloc, said that the congratulations sent to the Belarus leader by Armenian leaders were “a step taken in accordance with certain diplomatic rules.”
Armenia is a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization, both of which include Belarus.
“Both the prime minister and the president sent their congratulations on the basis of the adopted procedure. If events develop in a way that new elections are held [in Belarus], there will be new congratulations in accordance with the results of these new elections,” Zolian said.
Opposition Bright Armenia faction member Armen Yeghiazarian, who was on a delegation of observers at the Belarus election representing the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose grouping of several post-Soviet countries, said that based on what he observed at polling stations in Minsk he got the impression that perhaps indeed there were no major violations during the ballot itself. “Perhaps people, indeed, cast their vote, but in the end, during the vote count, seeing that the numbers were not in favor of the incumbent, they [election officials] changed them. Perhaps, there were indeed no violations at the polling stations for us to see,” he said.
Yeghiazarian said that the main challenge for Belarus now is to avoid bloodshed. “If the majority in the country opposes the current government, it might be right for Lukashenka to step down and leave it up to democracy so that people themselves can decide in which direction the country wants to go,” the Armenian lawmaker said.
While most people in the streets of Yerevan took little interest in the events taking place in Belarus, those who did mainly spoke in favor of the protesters.
“He [Lukashenka] must leave. But he is very stubborn. He won’t leave until he does what we had in 2008,” one Yerevan resident said, referring to Armenia’s post-election crackdown 12 years ago in which 10 people were killed.
“I support the people of Belarus. Let it be the way people want it to be,” another man said.