Russia Sees US Plot in Yerevan Protests
When a Russian TV reporter went live from the Yerevan protests last night, a poster behind her read “Russia 24: Go to hell,” to use a mellow translation of the original choice of words.
The crowd gathered around the journalist was angry that Russian media draws parallels between their protest against higher electricity fees from a Russian-owned power company and Ukraine’s pro-Western uprising in 2013.
“People here do not want the word Yerevan to be used in the same sentence with Kyiv,” the LifeNews journalist explained.
But there is little doubt in the minds of Russia’s political elite that the crisis in Armenia, often dubbed Electro-Maidan in Russian, is yet another uprising is in the making and the US is behind it.
Igor Morozov, a member of Russia’s legislative upper house, the Federation Council, opined on June 24 that Yerevan’s protests carbon-copy the build-up to EuroMaidan, and will end in a coup if “the nation’s President Serzh Sargsyan does not learn lessons from Ukraine’s Maidan and does not draw the right conclusions," RIA Novosti reported.
And, in the time-honored fashion of Russian politicians, Morozov is eager to make sure he does. Morozov and his colleague in the lower house, the State Duma, Valery Rishkin, advised Sargsyan to boot US Ambassador Richard Mills out of Armenia.
In Russian political folklore, US embassies in Ukraine, Armenia and elsewhere in the post-Soviet world work as regional headquarters of an anti-Kremlin conspiracy thought up in Washington, DC.
“I hope that the US fails, but if I were the Armenian leader, I’d immediately eject the US ambassador/agent provocateur and go talk to the protesters,” Rishkin said.
For proof, Morozov and friends look to the past. Duma Member Alexander Babakov recalled a February 2015 visit to Armenia by US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who peeved Moscow by handing out cookies to Maidan activities in Kyiv.
Neither President Sargsyan nor the US embassy in Yerevan or State Department has responded to these claims.
It is unclear what Moscow, which maintains an army base in Armenia, is prepared to do to prevent its worst fears from materializing, but Russian politicians say they cannot afford losing another ex-Soviet republic.
“In effect, Russia only has two real friends left in the post-Soviet space -- Armenia and Belarus,” Rishkin observed wistfully. Both Armenia and Belarus are members of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, but are courted by the European Union.
Most protesters in Yerevan, though, insist that all they want is an electricity bill they can afford. And an end to being the victims of what they see as financial funny business by the government's business pals.
But that, perhaps, is too straightforward for Moscow.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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