Safarov Reactions: Sargsyan asks nation not to burn Hungarian flag; Hungarians say “we are sorry, Armenia”

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has asked his countrymen not to burn the flag of Hungary in protesting the controversial release by this country of a confessed murderer of an Armenian army officer to Azerbaijan.

The news of the extradition of Ramil Safarov, who was serving a life sentence for axe-murdering Gurgen Margaryan during a NATO-sponsored language course in Budapest in 2004, and his immediate pardoning in Baku last week triggered Armenia’s harsh response, with President Sargsyan suspending diplomatic ties with Hungary and demanding an assessment of the actions by Armenia’s international partners.

Hungary’s behavior seen as treacherous towards Armenians in Yerevan also led to anti-Hungarian protests in Armenia during which at least on one occasion a Hungarian tricolor was burned.

“I would like to address our society, specifically the youth, and ask them not to burn the flag of Hungary because the flag of Hungary is not the flag of Hungary’s party in power,” Sargsyan told media on Tuesday. “Hungary’s flag is not the symbol of Hungary’s prime minister. We have had very good relations with the Hungarians for hundreds of years. And the inhuman act by one person, or one [political] party, [or by] one government should not be grounds for us to become enemies with the Hungarians.”

Meanwhile in Budapest Tuesday, a crowd of nearly 2,000, according to Reuters, staged a protest, with participants chanting "We are sorry, Armenia".

"Murderers should not be extradited to countries where it is clear that ethnic hate crimes are considered heroism," said protester Laszlo Muhari, 30. "In a democratic country this is not acceptable."

"[Prime Minister Viktor] Orban should stop lying and start giving clear answers, because it is simply impossible that such a brutal killer is just released without a background deal."