The Moscow-based Dossier Center, which is financed by exiled former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, listed Tsarukian last week among possible Russian “agents of influence” who it said are overseen by a senior Kremlin official.
The official, Vladimir Chernov, is a retired intelligence general who heads a department on “interregional and cultural ties with foreign countries” in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration.
In an article posted on its website at the weekend, the Dossier Center revealed what it described as details of the department’s shadowy operations in Armenia. In particular, it claimed that Chernov’s office promotes Russian propaganda and sponsors local pro-Russian opposition figures and pundits hostile to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
The website published relevant documents allegedly leaked to the opposition group. They include purported confidential correspondence between Chernov’s subordinates and their Armenian contacts striving for regime change in Armenia. Dossier also posted a photocopy of Tsarukian’s passport which it claimed to have obtained from the Kremlin division.
The copy fuelled media speculation in Yerevan about Tsarukian’s unpublicized ties to Russia.
Hrachya Hakobian, a pro-government lawmaker and Pashinian’s brother-in-law, bluntly suggested on Tuesday that the BHK leader might be a Russian agent.
“In terms of his activities, I wouldn’t say that I noticed any fishy things,” said Hakobian. “But the very fact that [a copy of] his passport ended up, according to the Dossier Center, in a Kremlin drawer is quite suspicious and nothing should be ruled out.”
Tsarukian’s spokeswoman, Iveta Tonoyan, categorically ruled out such a possibility. “I would urge Mr. Hakobian to keep his internal fears and concerns to himself,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Tonoyan insisted that she does not know how the Kremlin could have gotten hold of the copy of Tsarukian’s passport. Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) should find that out instead of “looking for enemies inside the country,” she said, referring to controversial criminal proceedings launched against the BHK leader in June.
NSS Director Argishti Kyaramian told reporters on Monday that his agency is already looking into the Dossier article. He said vaguely that the inquiry might expose Armenian “names and surnames along with their passports and signatures.”
Tsarukian is known as a strong supporter of Armenia’s close ties with Russia. The BHK, which is Armenia’s largest parliamentary opposition force, signed a memorandum of cooperation with the ruling United Russia party last year.