Bull in a china shop?: Armenia reacts to controversial statements by pro-Kremlin media boss

Bull in a china shop?: Armenia reacts to controversial statements by pro-Kremlin media boss

Photo: www.parliament.am

Dmitry Kiselyov, head of the Russian state news agency, Rossiya Segodnya, during a Wednesday meeting with Armenian lawmakers

The Russian leadership appears to have multiplied its efforts to bring Armenia into the Eurasian Union and prevent its participation in Western and other projects and blocs. Emissaries of the Kremlin one after another have started coming to Yerevan to ‘persuade’ Armenia that its place is in the emerging neo-Russian Empire, which will be called the Eurasian Union. Some Armenian analysts believe that Moscow is panicking about Armenia’s loyalty.

Head of the Russia Today state media holding Dmitry Kiselyov, who is described by some as Putin’s Goebbels, made a number of controversial statements during his visit to Armenia earlier this week. Some of those remarks caused a great discontent among opposition circles in Armenia, and Nikol Pashinyan, an opposition lawmaker, even urged the Foreign Ministry to declare Kiselyov a persona non grata in Armenia. Another opposition MP, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Arzumanyan called for conditions to ensure that “strangers” do not “bark” in Armenia.

Kiselyov had, in particular, complained about the fact that the Russian language and culture were allegedly not duly respected in Armenia. “We need to jointly promote the Russian language and culture in the country [Armenia], change the language law, otherwise it will affect the security, which Russia provides for Armenia,” Kiselyov said. Russia’s former ambassador to Armenia Vyacheslav Kovalenko, meanwhile, demanded that the Russian language in Armenia be given the status of the second state language.

Yerevan officially responded to these claims. According to Armenia’s Minister of Education and Science Armen Ashotyan, the Armenian government sees no need for giving the Russian language the status of a state language in Armenia.

The best conditions for the advancement of the Russian language have been created in Armenia. The study of the Russian language begins at Armenian schools in the second grade, other foreign languages are studies from third grade onward. “We see no need and I personally do not see the need to empower the Russian language in Armenia with any constitutional status. Because Armenia has a mono-ethnic population, because in Armenia our official language is Armenian,” said Ashotyan.

“The Russian language for us, firstly, is an exclusive means in terms of security, membership in the military-political alliance, operating military equipment of Russian make. Secondly, the Russian language is a language of international communication in the CIS as well as in the territory of the Eurasian Economic Union. And thirdly, Russian is a key to a huge cultural heritage,” the minister emphasized.

Thus, he actually answered the arguments that military equipment in Armenia is mainly Russian and that one needs to know the Russian language to operate it. Ashotyan believes that the level of the knowledge of the Russian language in Armenia is enough for the operation of military equipment.

Commenting on the statements by Kiselyov, Ashotyan said: “When our Russian colleagues, friends, officials arrive in Armenia, they should speak correctly with the Armenian society. Otherwise, the statements by Russian colleagues will create a situation that is best described by the proverb about a bull in a china shop.”

According to some Armenian analysts, the visit and cynical behavior of Kiselyov is part of a plan for the forcible inclusion of Armenia to the Eurasian Union. Despite the statements by the Armenian leadership about their readiness to join the Eurasian Union “if two or three problems are settled”, it is obvious that the participation of Armenia is under a big question mark because of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. The positions of the presidents of the Eurasian Union on this issue do not coincide with the position of Armenia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov plans to come to Yerevan on June 22-23 for the “removal of contradictions”. Before that, on June 17-18, the top Russian diplomat is scheduled to visit Baku. Moscow also invites Azerbaijan to participate in the Eurasian Union, and if Baku agrees, it will be possible to close the question of Armenia’s entry.