Moscow Worried About Armenian Outcry

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Russia’s government signaled concerns on Friday about the possible impact on Russian-Armenian relations because of an uproar in Yerevan sparked by the controversial treatment of an Armenian man prosecuted for a deadly traffic accident near Moscow.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin met the Armenian ambassador in Moscow, Oleg Yesayan, to discuss the fallout from last week’s collision of a heavy truck and a public bus that left 18 people dead and more than 30 others wounded.

The truck was driven by Hrachya Harutiunian, an Armenian migrant worker. He was arrested and charged with manslaughter and violation of traffic rules.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Yesayan offered “sincere condolences” in connection with the bus crash at the meeting. “It was confirmed from the Russian side that there will be a thorough and objective investigation into that case, which will certainly respect the legal rights of the accused,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Mutual concerns were expressed regarding ongoing, undignified attempts to exploit this tragedy in order to inflame sentiments which run counter to the spirit of Russian-Armenian friendship,” the statement added without giving further details.

It was a clear reference to the furious reaction in Armenia to what many people there see as Harutiunian’s degrading treatment by Russian law-enforcement and a xenophobic coverage of the case by the Russian media. A visibly shocked Harutiunian was made to wear a women’s bath robe when he appeared before a Moscow court on Monday. Russian state television emphasized his nationality in its reports on the tragedy.

The driver’s wretched appearance led to a barrage of criticisms from Armenian state officials, opposition and civic figures, and especially the media. Some media commentators accused the Russian government of deliberately humiliating the Armenian citizen.

The Russian TV images also triggered angry protests outside the Russian Embassy in Yerevan. The embassy on Wednesday accused “certain individuals” of exploiting the affair to whip up anti-Russian sentiment in Armenia. It insisted that the fatal crash had “no ethnic implications” but stopped short of criticizing Harutiunian’s televised treatment.

According to a spokesman for the Armenian Embassy in Moscow, Russian officials have assured embassy officials that their handling of the arrested suspect was an unintentional “result of haste.”

However, a report in the “Moskovsky Komsomolets” daily on Friday suggests that the Moscow police are unrepentant about their actions. Citing unnamed police sources, the paper said the Russian investigators consider the scandal the result of a “ploy” by Harutiunian’s lawyers. It said they think that the lawyers “might have deliberately not brought him new clothes so that he appears before the court in a miserable way that will cause pity.”

One of the lawyers, Aleksandr Meltsev, said on Thursday that the defense team would have promptly provided Harutiunian with appropriate attire in hospital if it had been asked to. “We would have brought him new clothes in half an hour,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, announced that he will travel to Moscow on Sunday to meet with the arrested driver, his lawyers and “a number of officials dealing with the matter.” Earlier this week, Andreasian condemned Harutiunian’s ill-treatment and asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Lukin, to help ensure the due process of law in the investigation.

Russia already faced unusually strong criticism in Armenia after it emerged last month that it has begun delivering $1 billion worth of offensive weapons to Azerbaijan. The Armenian media, opposition politicians and pundits accused Moscow of betraying its sole regional ally. Top Russian security officials dismissed these accusations when they visited Yerevan later in June. The Armenian government, for its part, refrained from publicly deploring the Russian arms supplies to Baku.

Russia’s traditionally close relationship with Armenia is further called into question by signs that Moscow is unhappy with Yerevan’s reluctance to join a Russian-led Eurasian Union of ex-Soviet states and its plans to sign an “association agreement” with the European Union. Vyacheslav Kovalenko, until recently Russia’s ambassador to Armenia, warned of serious damage to bilateral ties earlier this month. Konstantin Zatulin, a prominent Russian pundit and former parliamentarian close to the Kremlin, likewise criticized “the disdainful attitude towards the Eurasian integration project in Armenia” on July 16.

Still, Sergey Markedonov, a respected Russian analyst, downplayed the significance of these developments. In an interview with the Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” published on Thursday, Markedonov blamed the “very inadequate behavior” of the Armenian and Russian media regarding the fallout from the Moscow bus crash. “I don’t think that it will somehow affect Russian-Armenian relations,” he said.

Markedonov, who is a visiting fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, also argued that neither President Vladimir Putin nor any other Russian leader has publicly disapproved of Armenia’s European integration drive. “Russia needs Armenia, and Armenia needs Russia,” he said. “The two have mutual interests.”

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13 Comments

  1. Raffi Boyadjian said:

    The problem is nothing affects Armenian-Russian relations even arms sales to Azerbaijan. Russia treats us like dirt and we don’t do anything. The arms sales and the treatment of this veteran are warning signs.

    • bigmoustache said:

      I agree completely.
      furthermore the “Eurasian Union” is nothing but a new Soviet Union, a counter to NATO. The Soviet Union was disastrous for Armenia and Armenian culture. It’s going to take a long time for us to remove the traces of Russian culture from Armenia.
      The arms sale to Azerbaijan was a punishment to Armenia for refusing to join the Eurasian Union. We have to stand our ground and not take any bullying from Russia. We have to create our own arms industry to learn self-reliance and create more jobs for Armenians while still having Russia as our ally. Russia must remember that we are their only ally in the region and that we have shed enough blood and sweat for them during the Soviet Union.

  2. Padova said:

    I agree with Sergey Markedonov that “Russia needs Armenia, and Armenia needs Russia,” They have to get along. Both have regional enemies that are ready to annihilate them.

  3. Garo said:

    Armenia needs Russia and Russia needs Armenia, is a correct statement, it’s the reality. I don’t know what are the benefits for Armenia going with the Europeans. Usually what matters for the West/ Europe is what they will gain from a relationship with Armenia and not how Armenia can benefit from such a relationship. The fact that Europe follows NATO, mayl affect Armenia’s position with regards to it’s national and historic aspirations. A stronger relationship with Russia can be more advantageous for Armenia. Not sure if Azerbaijan will be part of the Eurasian Union and if that’s the case, then there is a lot of thinking to do on Armenia’s side.
    I think Armenia has overreacted over the accident in Russia. There was no need to be so emotional and should have resorted to official channels first. The fact that there was a tragic accident that left many casualties, was a sad incident that first needed comforting and healing rather than inflaming regardless who was at fault and justice will take it’s course.

    • bigmoustache said:

      I disagree, I think the Armenian government reacted just fine. it was the people who protested against Russia for Hratch Harutunian with just cause but Russia can not blame our people for their opinions, nor can it accuse the Armenian government of intentionally stirring anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia. We have proven time and again that we are their only ally in the region.
      also, Azerbaijan is not in the Eurasian union and has no plans of joining and neither should Armenia. the Eurasian union is nothing but a new soviet union and were still trying to rebuild Armenia from the problems that were caused by the soviet union. Armenian culture in Armenia has been tainted with Russian, unemployment and apathy

      • bigmoustache said:

        we should have been more outraged at Russias arms sale to Azerbaijan which was punishment and pressure for us refusing to join the Eurasian union. as if their base in gyumri, which will be there for another 60 years, wasn’t enough to prove our loyalty as allies. we have to stand firm to any bullying tactics from the Russians and not let them limit us as to who we can be allies with.

        • GeorgeMardig said:

          The West will only bring headach to Armenia, a simple recognition of the Armenian Genocide after almost 100 years is still a big issue, for them Geopolitics overides values, decency, and justice,

  4. Vazken said:

    Russian authority should have open mind and consider this “accident” as a monstreous terrorist act by enemies of Russia and Armenia instead of blaiming Hrachya Harutiunian.
    As this may look like an accident, but, the owner of the truck and/or employer of the Hrachya Harutiunian is unknown in the news coverage; it won’t be far fetched to think that` terrorist groups can plan and execute such “look like accidents”, all they need is a manipulated truck with heavy loads of gravel- knowing who ever drives the truck will endup killing and maiming scores of innosent people to undermine one country’s public outrage against another.
    It’s easy to guess which country will benefit from the result …

  5. GeorgeMardig said:

    Unbiased and extensive investigation should be carried out including the media

  6. arziv said:

    This is beginning to look like a terrorist act. The driver claims that the brakes failed ? Surely he must have activated the brakes before along the route ? At what speed was the truck being driven ? Was the driver in a sober condition and in full control of his faculties ?The driver did not have a license ? Why was it employed without a license ? . Someone mentioned that the truck company was also owned by a compatriot ? Was the truck company license to operate, or did it have some fake license papers issued by some corrupt municipal department ? There are many questions which need to be answered. The accidental act of one man can not sour centuries old historical relations between the two nations. It is still an enigma the irrational and absurdly emotionally charged reactions from some sections of Armenian society. It was well organized by human rights activists and NGO operatives. Anything goes for these groups as long as it serves the purpose of causing friction between the two nations. It is correct to criticize the Russian judicial system, and proper complaints to be lodged. Harutunyan should not have been hauled into court dressed the way he was. That is unacceptable from any judicial system.

  7. wd4ty said:

    The result for such treatments is that Armenians are not united like “ever” and government trying harder without having any thing to offer to Russian`s people, been seen Armenians as ” peasants” that hanging to their shore. If Armenians owned the lands as Azeries token from them in past, they would be a very different story with having those oils revenue Armenia would be a most respected people in the world. “unite “and get what you have lost ! the time is now before they are a big power in your backyard !

  8. Pingback: Moscow Worried About Armenian Outcry | Asbarez Armenian News | ThisRightNow

  9. al said:

    Armenia wont survive wt Russia……….whoever disagrees..does not know the history or the reality……

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