YEREVAN—After the US Embassy in Armenia issued a terse warning to Armenian businesses about the consequences of doing business with Russia in light of the most recent Western sanctions, the Russian Embassy fired back accusing the US of “threatening” Armenia.
“We encourage all countries and their nationals to consider the reputational risk of doing business with sanctioned individuals and entities and cease business dealings inconsistent with the sanctions that we and others have imposed,” the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said on Thursday.
“The U.S. Embassy in Armenia, like other U.S. embassies around the globe, distributed information about these latest sanctions to Government of Armenia representatives as well as to local business organizations,” it added a statement to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Russian Embassy was quick to respond and accuse the US of using “thinly veiled threats” against the Armenian government and its business community.
“It is not within diplomatic norms to dictate to a host country’s authorities with whom and how they should maintain ties, especially using suggestive threats against a sovereign state. We expect that the business community of Armenia is also able to independently conduct its business and does not need any and does not need any pressure,” said the Russian Embassy statement.
“We are concerned about the American attempts to complicate the activities of Russian business in Armenia. All the Russian companies in Armenia, including VTB Bank (Armenia) and Areximbank-Gazprombank Group are under the jurisdiction of Armenia, operate within the limits of Armenia’s legislation, obtain profit and pay taxes in Armenia and secure the employment of the major part of Armenia’s population,” said the Russian Embassy
“The calls to stop dealings with the Russian companies disavow the U.S. representatives’ hypocritical statements about their willingness to contribute to Armenia’s economic development. One also definitely observes obvious elements of dishonest trade and economic competition in the US’s actions,” added the Russian Embassy.
This brings Armenia front and center in the mounting tensions between the US and Russia following the developments in Ukraine, which were compounded with the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. The US and Ukrainian officials are squarely blaming Moscow for the incident.
VTB Bank and Gazprom were among companies named in the heightened sanctions announced this week by Europe and the US. The companies operate in Armenia under subsidiaries that control a significant portion of Armenia’s infrastructure. The sanctions also include the Russian oil company Rosneft, which has recently committed to a $400 million investment to rebuild the malfunctioning Nairit Rubber plant.
According to RFE/RL, Armenian government officials did not comment on the US Embassy statement.
On Wednesday, however, the VTB Bank-(Armenia) issued a statement saying the Western sanctions would not impact its business in Armenia.
The Armenia-based bank said in a statement that it will continue providing the full range of services and respecting its obligations in all currencies, with which it works.
“In connection with the U.S. sanctions announced against a number of Russian banks, including VTB, we inform that VTB Bank (Armenia) operates in a normal mode providing the full range of services regarding deposit and loan contracts, money transfer operations and payments made by use of bank cards, ” VTB Bank (Armenia) said.