Under relevant amendments to the Criminal Code drafted by the Ministry of Justice and publicized over the weekend, anyone convicted of such offenses would risk up three years in prison. Violent actions aimed at limiting Armenia’s sovereignty “in favor of another state or international or supranational organization” would be punishable by prison sentences of between 12 and 15 years.
Vladimir Vartanian, the pro-government chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on legal affairs, defended the proposed amendments on Monday. He described them as a “preventive” measure needed “so that people take no actions against our statehood.” He declined to give any examples of such actions or statements.
Vartanian said vaguely that the proposed amendments are designed for “socially dangerous situations that could reach a peak due to certain events.”
“It’s very hard to tell at this point what we could be dealing with,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
The lawmaker representing the ruling Civil Contract party also would not say whether the government bill, if passed by the Armenian parliament, would apply to individuals publicly advocating Armenia’s accession to Russia’s “union state” with Belarus.
An Armenian newspaper belonging to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s family, claimed earlier this month that Moscow is trying to annex Armenia or make it part of the Russia-Belarus union by encouraging Azerbaijani military aggression against its regional ally.
“Russia wants from Armenia almost what it wants from Ukraine,” the Haykakan Zhamanak daily said in an article by an anonymous author identified as “Reliable Source.”
The Kremlin dismissed the Haykakan Zhamanak allegations as “obvious nonsense.”
Armenian opposition leaders speculated that Pashinian, who had edited the paper for many years, himself wrote the piece to prepare the ground for making sweeping concessions to Baku and ending Armenia’s alliance with Russia.
Incidentally, the main opposition Hayastan alliance came up with a similar bill in February. Its passage was blocked by Pashinian’s party at the time.