Thursday

11th Aug 2022

Opinion

Armenia murder galvanises anti-Russia felling

  • The EEU entered into life on 1 January 2015, with four members - Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia. (Photo: Wikipedia)

A Russian soldier’s recent murders of seven members of an Armenian family, including a six-month old boy, has ignited anger across our country.

It is not just the murders themselves that caused the outrage, although killing an entire family with an AK-47 and a knife should be enough to prompt nationwide fury.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Minefield: Russia is selling arms to both sides in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conlfict (Photo: halotrust.org)

Adding to the consternation of many Armenians was Russia’s indication that it would try the soldier in a Russian military court rather than surrender him to our government for trial.

Many Armenians worry that a Russian court will give him a light sentence or even ship him back to Russia to be set free.

Russia’s indication that one of its courts will have jurisdiction is also seen as the latest evidence of its growing neo-colonialist control over its South Caucasus neighbour.

With Russia playing the role of Armenia's protector in its old conflict with Azerbaijan, Russia critics say our government feels no compunction about acting undemocratically - ignoring the rule of law, stifling the opposition, and engaging in mass-scale corruption.

There is a stack of evidence to corroborate these claims - including beatings and jailings of dissidents and the burning of opposition figures’ cars.

Those critics are calling for the government to start extricating the country from the Kremlin’s bear-hug before it’s too late.

Sphere of influence

There have been several signs of increasing Russian influence in recent years.

To start with, Moscow has given no indication it will withdraw the 3,000 troops it has stationed at Gyumri in northern Armenia. Although ostensibly here to protect our sovereignty, many Armenians believe the troops are on our soil as a veiled threat - a reminder of what could happen if Yerevan refuses to toe the Kremlin line.

Even more galling to many of us who dislike Russian soldiers being in our country is that Moscow pays Armenia nothing for the use of the base.

In addition to “protecting” Armenia with 3,000 troops, Russia is also selling us arms.

That is of small consolation to a lot of Armenians, however, because Moscow is also selling arms to Azerbaijan, the country with which we fought a war after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Russia is supplying our government with cut-rate oil and gas. Although that lowers our energy costs, it makes us vulnerable to a Russian energy cut-off. That unnerves many Armenians, given Moscow’s propensity to use energy as a weapon against neighbours.

Our government has also dug itself deeper into energy-dependence by selling much of its oil and gas infrastructure to the Russians.

The most glaring example of Russia’s attempt to establish control over Armenia is its bullying us to join the Eurasian Economic Union rather than the European Union.

In July 2013, Yerevan was ready to sign both a free-trade agreement and a political association agreement with the EU.

Two months later, Russian president Vladimir Putin called Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan to Moscow like a feudal ord summoning his vassal.

Only government insiders know what Putin told Sargsyan.

But after their hour-long meeting, Sargsyan announced a 180-degree turn-around on economic integration. We were going to join the Customs Union, the forerunner of the EEU, instead of the EU, he said. The EEU entered into life on 1 January 2015, with four members - Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia.

Sargsyan probably thought he had little choice but to accept Putin’s dictates, given the 3,000 Russian troops in Armenia, the country’s dependence on Russian energy, and the way Russia reacted to the uprising which installed a pro-EU regime in Ukraine: invading Crimea and sending Russian arms and troops into eastern Ukraine to help separatists.

Demonstrations

Much of our public was incensed about the u-turn on integrating with the EU, which is our biggest trading partner, to integrating with the EEU.

A thousand or more Armenians turned out to demonstrate against Russia’s role in the about-face when Putin visited the country in December 2013.

Many more thousands have turned out to protest the Russian soldier’s killing of this young family and the possibility that he will be tried by a Russian court.

Indeed, those who contend that our government is becoming a colonialist client of Russia have plenty of ammunition for their argument.

For the good of our country our leaders need to begin backing away from Moscow. Seventy years of the Kremlin calling the shots in Armenia during Soviet times was enough.

It’s time for Armenia to throw off the Russian yoke once and for all. Our people want to be free from a long-meddling neighbour whose interests don’t coincide with ours.

Armine Sahakyan is a human rights activist based in Armenia

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Russia puts EU in nuclear-energy paradox

There's unprecedented international anxiety about the safety of Ukraine's nuclear reactors, but many European countries are also turning to nuclear power to secure energy supplies.

How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army

The Kremlin attacked Ukraine because it believed it could afford to. It perceived nuclear deterrence between Russia and the West as reciprocal, and therefore almost a non-issue. It also saw, in military terms, Europe is disappearing from the world map.

Column

Global hunger crisis requires more than just the Odessa deal

International donors are playing hide and seek. Instead of stepping up their assistance programmes, richer nations are cutting overseas aid, or reallocating funds from other parts of the world towards the Ukraine crisis.

Exploiting the Ukraine crisis for Big Business

From food policy to climate change, corporate lobbyists are exploiting the Ukraine crisis to try to slash legislation that gets in the way of profit. But this is only making things worse.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us