MOSCOW (RFE/RL)–Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide ahead of his participation in Friday’s official ceremonies in Yerevan to mark the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.
“April 24, 1915 is a sad date connected with one of the most appalling and dramatic events in the history of humankind: the genocide of the Armenian people,” Putin said Wednesday in a written message to participants of an event in Moscow dedicated to the genocide centennial.
“One century on, we bow our heads in memory of all victims of this tragedy which our country has always perceived as its own pain and calamity,” he said.
“The position of Russia has been and remains objective and consistent: there can be no justifications for an ethnically motivated mass extermination. The international community is obliged to do everything to ensure that such atrocities are never repeated anywhere.”
“New generations of Armenians and other peoples of the region must live in peace and accord without knowing the horrors that result from provocation of religious enmity, aggressive nationalism and xenophobia,” added the message posted on the Kremlin’s website.
Putin is one of the four foreign heads of state — along with the presidents of France, Serbia and Cyprus — who have accepted official Armenian invitations to take part in the April 24 remembrance ceremonies in Yerevan. Russia and France are among two dozen countries that have officially recognized the World War One-era slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians as genocide.
In what may have been an attempt to prevent Putin’s April 24 visit to Armenia, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan phoned his Russian counterpart and discussed the genocide issue with him on March 17. Erdogan told Putin that the issue should be tackled from a “fair perspective.”
The Moscow event saluted by Putin was organized by the pro-Kremlin Union of Armenians of Russia (SAR) with what the latter described as the “support” of the Russian presidential administration and other government bodies.