The company, Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC), changed hands following a government crackdown on its management and key shareholders who openly challenged Pashinian’s administration.
Russia’s GeoProMining group announced on October 1 that it has acquired 60 percent of ZCMC and immediately “granted” a quarter of that stake to the government. The latter therefore owns 15 percent of the mining giant located in Kajaran, a small town in southeastern Syunik province.
GeoProMining gave no clear reason for the lavish donation. Later in October, another Russian company, which holds a minority share in ZCMC, challenged the legality of the takeover in an Armenian court.
Subsequent reports in the Armenian press said that Tigran Avinian, a senior member of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party and a former deputy prime minister, could soon become ZCMC’s new executive director.
Pashinian’s chief of staff, Arayik Harutiunian, effectively confirmed the reporters when he spoke with journalists on Wednesday. He said Avinian deserves the job “because he is a member of the political team and because we need people who can best represent Armenia’s interests in that company.”
In a written “clarification” issued shortly afterwards, the government said, however, that it is considering appointing Avinian as a member of ZCMC’s board of directors, rather than its CEO.
Avinian, 32, actively participated in the 2018 mass protests that brought Pashinian to power. He was appointed as deputy prime minister shortly after the “velvet revolution.”
Avinian resigned in August this year, saying that he objected to the ruling party’s list of candidates for the snap parliamentary elections held in June. He said he felt that it may be at odds with the “separation of business and politics” championed by Pashinian’s political team. He appeared to refer to two wealthy businessmen who were elected to the parliament on the Civil Contract ticket.
Avinian reportedly coordinated Civil Contract’s campaign in local elections held in several communities of Syunik on October 17.
Pashinian’s party was defeated in the most important of those communities comprising the towns of Goris, Meghri and Agarak. Their mayors affiliated with the main opposition Hayastan bloc were arrested in July on what they consider politically motivated charges.