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Will Armenia Pivot Away From Russia?

On July 13, an Armenian named Hrachya Harutiunian was driving a truck through a Moscow suburb when he smashed into a bus, killing 18 people and leaving dozens injured. Days later, when Harutiunian was dragged into court, he was wearing a woman’s flowery house coat and slippers. He appeared shocked and humiliated. A Russian news broadcaster ridiculed his “grunting” and mocked his nationality, Radio Free Europe reports.

Despite the severity of Harutiunian’s crime, Armenians were outraged at his treatment. Protesters gathered outside the Russian embassy in Yerevan. Armenian bloggers have taken to the web to vehemently criticize Russia. As the article notes, some see a sea change in the relationship between Armenia and Russia:

But public opinion in Armenia could be shifting slightly from its historically pro-Russian stance. Emma Gabrielyan, a journalist and blogger for the daily “Aravot,” wrote recently that “one gets the impression the Russians are thoughtfully, with their own hands, destroying our belief in the stereotype that ‘Russia is the guarantor of Armenia’s security.'”

“A year ago, no one could have imagined that one day the citizens of Armenia would hold protest actions in front of the Russian Embassy,” she added.

Armenia’s relationship with Moscow has been deteriorating on fronts as well. Russia recently raised the price of gas sharply for Armenian customers, and activists have been holding a sit-in outside the office of Yerevan’s mayor for almost a week now in protest. Meanwhile, Russia began a delivery of $1 billion in weapons to Armenia’s next-door rival, Azerbaijan, with whom Armenia fought a war in the 1990s. The Armenian government, in turn, is moving quickly forward with plans to join the European Union over the objections of Moscow, which is urging Armenia to join its own Eurasian Customs Union.

This festering tension has important geopolitical implications not just for Armenia and Russia but also for Iran. Tehran has been making overtures toward Yerevan recently, offering to expand economic and security ties. But if Armenia chooses to turn instead toward the EU and the West, and away from Iran and Russia, Iran might find itself more isolated than it already is.

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  • ljgude

    Caught between the Russians, the Azerbaijanis and the Iranians it seems understandable that the Armenians would pin thier hope on the West.

  • cubanbob

    Why are the Russians provoking problems for themselves? Where is the offsetting benefit to Russia?

  • USNK2

    When will the EU sanction Turkey for their illegal land blockade of their border with Armenia?

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