Ruling Party Leader Blames U.S. for Armenia Unrest

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A leading member of the governing Republican Party on Friday accused the United States and other "foreign powers" of having a hand in Armenia’s dramatic post-election developmen’s.

Galust Sahakian, a Republican deputy chairman, claimed that opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian and his associates acted at the behest of external forces hostile to the Armenian state.

"In many foreign powers there are organizations that are used by those powers," said Sahakian. "Those are mainly American forces, not the American state, and some [Masonic] lodges based in France."

"Of course the state is behind them," he told a news conference. Sahakian is not the first politician to blame the West and the U.S. in particular for the deadly post-election unrest in Yerevan that led to the imposition of a 20-day state of emergency and mass arrests of Ter-Petrosian supporters. Hamlet Harutiunian, a parliament deputy from the Republican party, likewise alleged an "international conspiracy against Armenia" in the aftermath of the March 1 street battles between security forces and opposition protesters.

The allegations were echoed by Hrant Markarian, the top leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. Opening an ARF congress in Yerevan in May, Markarian said Ter-Petrosian’s post-election demonstrations were part of a U.S. plan to foment a "color revolution" in Armenia.

The external conspiracy theory also appears to be part of the ongoing criminal investigation into what the Armenian government has called an opposition attempt to stage a coup d’etat following the disputed presidential election of February 19. The Special Investigative Service, a law-enforcement agency leading the probe, claimed in a recent statement that Ter-Petrosian’s bid for regime change was "organized by one center" and "financed from abroad." It did not elaborate.

Shortly after the March 1 the SIS chief Andranik Mirzoyan instructed regional prosecutors to round up local participants of the opposition demonstrations in Yerevan and find out "what was said at the rallies about the assistance from foreign states" and "whether rally participants spoke about ending Russia’s presence in Armenia."

Speaking to journalists, Sahakian also complained about U.S. criticism of Armenian elections. "Unlike Europe, the USA and its various organizations claimed the elections were not administered well in Armenia," he said. "We responded to that and they shut up because in our [last] two national elections there was not a single observer from the United States."

The U.S. State Department has described the Armenian presidential ballot as "significantly flawed." The vote’s assessment by the European Union has been more positive.


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