Ukraine events inspiring for Armenian opposition, says Heritage member

Ukraine events inspiring for Armenian opposition, says Heritage member

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The Ukrainian opposition’s victory could be inspiring for the Armenian opposition and add to the fears of the government, says opposition Heritage party member Stepan Safaryan.

Talking to ArmeniaNow, Safaryan said that while people can be excited about it, “the adequacy of the political forces’ agenda to public expectations may still remain a problem”.

Unlike in Ukraine, where the government’s refusal to proceed with the policy of European integration led to massive protests and eventually a regime change, in Armenia only a few political parties (including Heritage and Free Democrats) condemned the decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union of Armenia. Protests staged in that connection in Armenia did not attract many people. The other non-governing forces represented in parliament, including the Armenian National Congress, Prosperous Armenia and Dashnaktsutyun, did not speak against the decision to join the Customs Union at all.

Meanwhile, the street protests that began in Ukraine in November led to a change of power that came at a price of dozens of victims killed during clashes between demonstrators and security forces. Hundreds were injured in street battles. Eventually, Ukrainian President Viktor Yunkovych was ousted from his position by the Supreme Rada, the country’s legislature, and he fled capital Kiev on Saturday. Yanukovych’s whereabouts remain unknown. Meanwhile, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison. She has announced her intention to run for president in elections scheduled for May.

Official Yerevan has not yet reacted to the events in Ukraine in any way. Only lawmakers, at the suggestion of opposition leader Levon Zurabyan, observed a moment of silence for the victims in Ukraine in the National Assembly on Monday.

Heritage’s Safaryan says that the Ukrainians have managed to convince Russia that its bullying behavior will lead to even worse consequences.

“What has happened in Ukraine shows that these people are sick and tired of the Russian yoke, this is the result of [Russia’s] policy towards Ukraine. Deterioration of relations takes place because of this policy no matter towards whom it is being conducted,” says Safaryan, adding that in Armenia, nevertheless, in the event of a popular uprising the government will first of all fear not the people, but foreign interference.

“Armenia’s authorities know that they have been dishonest with Europeans, they know that there is mistrust towards them also in Russia, therefore at this moment they wait and see who will benefit from the situation, who will stir the situation… and they will try to understand how they can save themselves,” he says.

Armenian government officials routinely deny that by taking the decision on joining the Customs Union in September Armenia acted dishonestly towards the EU or incurred Moscow’s distrust because of its policies in recent years.

Meanwhile, Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute Deputy Director, political analyst Sergey Minasyan believes that after the developments in Ukraine Armenia will be able to negotiate around joining the Customs Union on more favorable conditions. Minasyan also thinks that the European integration process could get a new impetus in the post-Soviet territory in the wake of the events in Ukraine.

“In these conditions Armenia will have an opportunity to broaden its multi-faceted relations with the EU,” says the analyst.