YEREVAN (Arka–Armenpress–RFE/RL)–Armenia marked the 11th anniversary of declaring independence from the Soviet Union on Saturday with low-key official ceremonies attended by Robert Kocharian; President of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh–Arkady Ghoukassian; Prime Minister of Armenia–Andranik Margarian; President of the National Assembly of Armenia–Armen Khatchatrian; Mayor of Yerevan–Robert Nazarian and other high-ranking dignitaries and guests.
President Kocharian–government officials and Catholicos Karekin II–began the day with a visit to Yerevan’s Yerablur memorial to Armenian soldiers who died in the 1992-1994 war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabagh.
Armenian prime minister Andranik Margarian was the first top official on Friday to address the nation–in which he referred to independence as Armenia’s greatest achievement of the past decade: "The previous years have shown that independence is the only choice for our country and people. Democracy–the construction of a legal state and civil society–are the only way to create better conditions–to live free and independently–to move forward with civilized peoples and to ensure a worthy life for the people." Margarian also remembered the heroes who gave their lives for independence.
A special "Service for the Good of the Republic" was conducted in the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin. His Holiness Karekin II–Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenia’s–presided over and officiated the service.
The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory message to President Kocharian on the the occasion.
Putin praised the creation of socio-economic infrastructures and implementation of market reforms–and commended Armenia’s input in creating a solid policy with its neighbors by establishing friendship and mutual assistance for the sake of peace and stability in the Transcaucasus.
He also expressed satisfaction that Russian-Armenian relations have passed the test of time and are developing in the course of understanding and multilateral cooperation. He said that the strategic partnership of the two countries is dynamic and vast in character–both bilaterally–and within CIS–ACS and Caucasus Four–he concluded: "I am confident that by joining efforts we would be able to provide further development of a long-lasting rapport between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Armenia in the interest of the two sister nations."