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Armenia's sovereignty full of holes

19 January 2015 15:55 (UTC+04:00)
Armenia's sovereignty full of holes

By Mushvig Mehdiyev

The most recent incident in Armenia's Gyumri region and subsequent events raised questions over Armenia's sovereignty and sparked mixed reactions to the Russian policy towards the post Soviet country, while some experts characterized them as anti-Russian inspirations.

A series of protests took place in Armenia on January 15, as the Gyumri residents called on the Russian side to hand over the Russian serviceman, killer of the Avetisyan family, to the Armenian law-enforcement authorities. Many in Armenia said it was an alarming test for sovereignty of the country, which has officially became a member of the Russian-led trade bloc earlier this year.

The Russian online media are actively discussing the protests in Gyumri and Yerevan, focusing on the question whether Armenia will demand the withdrawal of the 102nd Russian military base from the country. Perpetrator of the butchery in Gyumri, Valery Permyakov, a serviceman at this base, is now being kept there in custody under the Russian law.

The Kremlin said it was impossible to comment on the crime committed by Permyakov, a soldier of the 102nd Russian base in Armenia, according to GALA, a Yerevan-based television channel.

An employee of the press-service told GALA that Dmitriy Peskov, Spokesman for the Russian President, considered it impossible to comment on the incident, while the Russian Defense Ministry has the authority to answer the question about the Russian conscript's criminal action in Armenia.

Meanwhile, the calls for the withdrawal of the base are voiced only at the social media in Armenia. As for the political leadership of the country, no one has yet given a political assessment of the bloody incident.

A state-level reaction to the crime was limited to President Serzh Sargsyan’s convening a closed meeting, a minute of silence in memory of the killed people at the government's meeting and Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan's comments, saying that the case should be investigated by the Armenian and Russian law-enforcement agencies, but only in Armenia. No serious stance on the massacre has yet been made, as the authorities are still keeping their silence rather than taking necessary actions.

Politicians both in Yerevan and Moscow have warned against politicizing the issue. But some activists began to make political demands following Russia's refusal to surrender the killer soldier to the Armenian justice.

A serious question has immediately arose whether the Armenian authorities have the power to administer justice in its own sovereign territory amid playing a cat and mouse game with Russia over Permyakov's handover.

Intense debates about Armenia’s sovereignty became topical following President Serzh Sargsyan's unexpected revelation in September 3, 2013, about Armenia's option to join the Eurasian Economic Union, an alliance of several former Soviet nations, as some political forces in Armenia claimed that decision to follow the EEU challenged the nation’s sovereignty.

Some other experts believed that integration into the EEU would threaten Armenia's security given Russia's recent expansion policy and hegemony within the union. Now, the tragedy in Gyumri, fueled concerns among Armenians as many among the people say the country's security has become more vulnerable, and a Russian soldier can easily shoot the innocent people, and Armenia cannot even try him by its laws.

James Appathurai, NATO Special Representative to the South Caucasus and Central Asia, has surprisingly visited Armenia on January 15 to meet with the country's leadership and express his hope that Armenia will take the righteous decision over the tragedy in Gyumri.

Igor Muradyan, an Armenian political experts who is famous for his criticism of Russia, said Russia understood that it was losing Armenia.

"Russia sees that the US, NATO and the European Union is gradually taking Armenia under their patronage ignoring the Russia-inclined desire of the authorities. Today, the western community is our partners, and Russia is our enemy," Muradyan said.

Traditional and historical ties between Armenia and Russia are now tumbling town as the stereotype of Russian immunity in Armenia is not solid anymore. Armenians has torn off the Russian flag at the Russian Consulate in Gyumri, even attempted to burn the flag at the Russian Embassy in Yerevan, which are the clear evidences of anti-Russian spirits rising in Armenia.

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Follow Mushvig Mehdiyev on Twitter: @Mushviggo

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