'Armenia is a free country, unlike Russia': rallies in Yerevan amid Russia-Ukraine war
A rally in support of Russia in Yerevan has been held today. It was organized by several pro-Russian politicians who do not enjoy a lot of public support. In Armenia, very few paid attention to the action, which did, however, raise interest, and even resonance outside the country. Against the backdrop of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the has begun to arise question of whether the Armenian authorities and society support Russia in this conflict.
The country’s authorities adhere to absolute neutrality, despite the fact that Armenia and Russia are official strategic allies. The expert community is more open about the fact that an exhausted Armenia, especially in its position after the 2020 Karabakh war, needs to strictly adhere to neutrality – as much as possible. There are both supporters of Russia in society and those who express support for Ukraine.
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Rally goes unnoticed in Armenia
Hundreds of people with posters and inscriptions of letters “Z” and “V” which became symbols of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine participated in the action in support of Russia. The organizers of the rally remain unknown, but it has been attended by several politicians who are known for their pro-Russian agenda.
One of them is the chairman of the Constitutional Right Union party, a member of the executive committee of the Strong Armenia with Russia movement, Hayk Babukhanyan, who stated the following:
“Today we stand with Russia, as our brotherhood has been proven on the battlefield and on the borders, where the Russian soldier defends Armenia and Artsakh. We will strengthen our brotherhood, unity. We are supporters of freedom, self-determination, Armenian-Russian friendship. Today our ally is waging a civilizational struggle. This is a civilizational conflict. By defending Russia, we are protecting our identity, traditions, our traditional families, the church”.
“Friendship with Russia should be honest and non-pragmatic. This is the foundation of relations between our countries. We are participating in this event today because we want Armenia to be strong and sincere in its friendly relations. And when there is a fight against Nazism, we express our position. We are here for the sake of a strong Armenia, its strong relations with a strategic partner”, announced Tigran Urikhanyan, leader of the Alliance party.
At the end of the speeches, the participants of the action marched to the Russian embassy. Here they announced that their rallies will be periodic and the next one will take place on March 26th.
“The issue of joining any union is not discussed”
The action was organized in support of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, but outside of Armenia it was also perceived as the consent of the Armenian society and authorities to enter the Union State with Russia and Belarus.
Discussion of such a development of events began after another scandalous statement by the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka. In early February, the Armenian media quoted and discussed the following words of his: “Armenia has nowhere to go. Do you think anyone needs them?
This statement caused resonance not only in society, but also in the Armenian parliament, and the press secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vahan Hunanyan was forced to comment on the attitude of the authorities to this statement:
“We are convinced that the peculiar geopolitical analysis of the President of Belarus aims to serve, first of all, his own domestic political agenda and has nothing to do with Armenia and its foreign policy”.
But as the talk continues unabated, the Armenian news agency Infocom has asked the Armenian foreign minister if he sees any possibility of the country joining an alliance with Russia and Belarus.
On March 18, the following response was received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
“According to the first article of the RA Constitution, the Republic of Armenia is a sovereign, democratic, social, legal state”.
This was followed by an explanation: there are no discussions on this issue on the government’s agenda.
Political observer Hakob Badalyan, on his Facebook page, commented on the few not very crowded rallies that have been held in Armenia in support of one or another side of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict:
“A significant part of society is quite rightly outraged by the rallies carried out in Armenia in support of the Russian military campaign in Ukraine. […] But just as Armenian communities can hold actions in different countries that do not comply with the state policy of that country, so any “community” in Armenia can hold such an action.
Armenia is a free country, unlike the same Russia.
Of course, part of the Armenian society does not like the protest action in front of the Russian embassy, the other part does not like the action in defense of the Russian “Z” campaign. […]
In my opinion, these actions acquire significance only because of their condemnation. Or maybe the expectation is that there will be noise, because if there is no noise, these actions remain within the “marginal” limits of their organizers. And the noise allows, firstly, for more attention to be paid to the “rallies”, and secondly, which is no less important, it allows one to “remotely” manage the public agenda and moods in Armenia.
Accordingly, no matter how difficult it is to restrain oneself from the point of view of emotions, it is important to “ignore” these actions from the point of view of rationality, showing that the Armenian society has its own “resistance agenda” and is not subject to remote control of various manipulations.
In the end, those who are interested in the public and state behavior of Armenia probably know best of all that these actions are “marginal”, and not an expression of the general mood, and can hardly be used to assess the current situation in the country.