The ministry said Ambassador Sergei Kopyrkin was handed a note of protest in connection with “offensive and absolutely unacceptable statements” made during the program.
The Russian Channel One’s talk show featured videos scrutinizing Pashinian’s background and casting him in a bad light as well as pro-Kremlin panelists who denounced his track record and portrayed him as a Western puppet tasked with ending Armenia’s close relationship with Russia. The show host, who added her voice to their derogatory comments, also interviewed an Armenian opposition politician, Andranik Tevanian, in the studio.
The unprecedented program highlighted a deepening rift between Moscow and Yerevan which accelerated after last month’s Azerbaijani military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia’s failure to prevent or stop it.
Addressing the European Parliament last week, Pashinian accused Moscow of using the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict to try to topple him. A Russian government source responded by comparing the Armenian leader to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine which was invaded by Russia last year.
In what appeared to be a related development, the speaker of the Russian lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, announced on Tuesday that the State Duma has indefinitely delayed the passage of legislation allowing holders of Armenian driving licenses to work as drivers in Russia. Volodin attributed the move to Yerevan’s failure to give the Russian language an official status.
The Armenian government signaled its unhappiness with state-controlled Russian broadcasters’ coverage of Armenia even before the scandalous show aired by Channel One. A parliament deputy representing Pashinian’s Civil Contract party said last month that the government should ban the retransmission of this and two other Russian TV channels in the country.
But another pro-government lawmaker, Gurgen Arsenian, spoke out against such a ban. Arsenian, who is also Armenia’s ambassador-designate to Russia, downplayed the Channel One program, claiming that it actually boosted Pashinian’s approval ratings at home.