Putin also sent Kocharian a separate congratulatory message on the occasion.
“People in Russia know you as a remarkable statesman who has done a great deal for the development of modern Armenia,” read the telegram publicized by the Kremlin. “We highly value your personal contribution to strengthening the friendship and alliance between our countries.”
Putin has made a pointing of congratulating Kocharian since the latter was first arrested in July 2018 on charges stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. He was also subsequently charged with bribery. The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the arrest as politically motivated.
Kocharian, who strongly denies all charges leveled against him, was released from custody in August 2018, only to be arrested again three months later.
The ex-president, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, was again set free days after going on trial in May 2019. He was arrested for a third time nearly two months later.
The Russian ambassador to Armenia, Sergei Kopyrkin, was criticized by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s political allies and summoned to the Armenian Foreign Ministry after meeting with Kocharian shortly before his third arrest. Putin continued to signal support for Kocharian even after that. He met with Kocharian’s wife Bella during an October 2019 visit to Yerevan.
Kocharian, who is very critical of Pashinian’s administration, was freed again in June this year after paying a record $4.1 million bail set by Armenia’s Court of Appeals. The bulk of the hefty sum was reportedly provided by four wealthy Russian businessmen.
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.