Kocharian’s office revealed the invitation last week, saying that the leadership of the United Russia party wants to deepen “partnership” with Hayastan, Armenia’s second largest parliamentary force. The trip was due to start at the end of Russian parliamentary elections slated for September 17-19.
Kocharian needs a court permission to leave Armenia because of standing trial on corruption charges rejected by him as politically motivated. Anna Danibekian, the judge presiding over the trial, repeatedly allowed him to visit Moscow earlier this year and last fall. She also cleared him of other, more serious charges in April.
Hayastan said on Friday that Danibekian has refused to give such permission this time around without any “legal reason.” “We are forced to cancel the visit,” the opposition bloc said in a statement.
The statement charged that the judge made the decision under strong government pressure. It said the move is aimed at “restricting Hayastan’s political activities” and undermining Russian-Armenian relations.
Kocharian, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, is thought to enjoy a warm rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The latter has repeatedly made a point of congratulating the ex-president on his birthday anniversaries and praising his legacy ever since Armenian law-enforcement authorities first indicted him three years ago.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has described Kocharian as a “big friend of Russia” and said the two men “talk to each other quite often.” But he insisted in March that the Kremlin is not supporting or guiding Kocharian’s political activities in any way.
Kocharian’s bloc was the main opposition challenger of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his party in snap parliamentary elections held June. It finished second in the polls.
Kocharian told senior members of the bloc to intensify its activities and public outreach efforts at a meeting held on Tuesday. According to a Hayastan statement on the meeting, they assured him that they remain committed to ousting the “government wrecking Armenia and leading it to destruction.”
“Very soon you will also witness street actions,” Ishkhan Saghatelian, a senior Hayastan figure, told reporters earlier on Friday. He did not go into details.
Asked whether this means the alliance is planning to hold anti-government rallies, Saghatelian said: “We never gave up rallies in the first place.”