Kocharian Congratulates Reelected Putin

YEREVAN (Reuters)–President Robert Kocharian joined government leaders around the world on Monday in congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his widely anticipated landslide reelection in the weekend presidential ballot.

"On March 14–Russia made a firm choice in favor of stability–democracy–and prosperity," Kocharian said in a message to Putin–publicized by his office.

"Armenia highly appreciates your huge personal contribution to the deepening of the allied Russian-Armenian relations. Success has been obvious in the whole spectrum of bilateral ties. Let me assure you of our readiness to continue efforts at stepping up cooperation between Russia and Armenia."

Kocharian’s positive reaction was echoed by his political allies. "Putin’s reelection means an internal strengthening of Russia–which is definitely good for Armenia," said Vahan Hovhannisian–leader of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

Hovhannisian–at the same time–noted that Yerevan will need to display "greater flexibility" in maintaining simultaneously good relations with the West and its main strategic ally–which has been more assertive towards its former Soviet satellites under Putin.

Some Armenian opposition representatives expressed concern at the tightening of Putin’s grip on power. Shavarsh Kocharian–a senior opposition lawmaker–deplored "the absence of a real alternative" in the Russian election. "This is extremely undesirable for Armenia as well–because Russia has substantial influence on Armenia and would naturally–like countries under its influence–develop in a similarly authoritarian way," he said.

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