The events surrounding Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), have been covered in a rather specific way by some Russian media outlets, spiced up with manipulative and untrue allegations and statements.
Gagik Tsarukyan’s house was searched on June 14,2020, after which the National Security Service released statements about the violations in Tsarukyan’s businesses and the election bribes distributed by the Prosperous Armenia Party during the 2017 parliamentary elections, while Gagik Tsarukyan was summoned for questioning and charged.
On June 17, 2020, the National Assembly deprived Tsarukyan of his parliamentary immunity and approved the Prosecutor General’s motion to detain the PAP leader. However, the PAP deputies and Tsarukyan’s supporters described the incident as political persecution, linking it to Tsarukyan’s criticism of the authorities on June 5, 2020.
Moreover, Tsarukyan’s supporters held protest rallies, first on June 14 in front of the NSS building, where Tsarukyan was being interrogated, and then on June 17 in front of the National Assembly. Hundreds of citizens were detained for protesting against the ban on holding rallies due to the state of emergency and epidemic situation.
Before referring to the publications of some Russian news outlets, it should be noted that the events surrounding Tsarukyan were widely covered during the YouTube program of the well-known Russian broadcaster Vladimir Solovyov. Leaving aside a number of problematic statements made by Solovyov during the program and the baffling silence of the other participants in the program, it is noteworthy to address a number of claims made by these participants.
Armen Gasparyan, in particular, a participant in the program and an employee of the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, reflected on the period when Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was an opposition MP, noting that he was a member of the “YELQ” bloc.
“He was in the parliament, where he was a member of the well-known “YELQ” faction. YELQ (“Exit”) means to withdraw from all agreements with Russia, that is, no strategic cooperation is needed,” Gasparyan said in particular. In this case, while hardly containing bewilderment caused by Gasparyan’s statement, it should be noted that the latter’s assertion is simply manipulative.
As co-founder Pashinyan explained, the name of “Yelq” faction meant an opportunity to free Armenia from a difficult situation and failure, and there is no geopolitical message in that name.
Moreover, in the political agenda of “YELQ” bloc, there was no talk of withdrawing from all agreements with Russia and refusing to cooperate; their election program merely mentioned that the bloc was against Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union, and that the membership risks should be re-evaluated. In their political program they touched upon another Eurasian program – the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as well and mentioned that talks should be held with member states to clarify their obligations towards each other. With regard to Russia, in particular, it was mentioned that all measures will be taken to establish dignified and mutually beneficial relations with Russia. Here, as you can see, nothing was said about the termination of contracts with Russia or non-cooperation.
In conclusion of our assessment of Gasparyan’s remarks, it should be noted that in his previous publications in Ria Novosti, he had used the Исход (Outcome) version of the Russian translation of the name of “Yelq”.
And, again, trying to bypass the many problematic ideas voiced during that program, it is necessary to dwell on a statement made by one participant of the program – Armenian journalist and political scientist Hayk Khalatyan.
“One of the criminal cases (EN: initiated against Gagik Tsarukyan) refers to” Shangri-La” casino. It turns out that the current government cancels the decision of the previous government, which allowed them to make a big investment. And now I’m wondering which investor would like to invest in a country where every new government can change the rules of the game in 5-7 years in a major blow to your investments?” mentioned Khalatyan, referring to the criminal case initiated in connection with the violations found in “Shangri-La” casino that belongs to Tsarukyan.
In reality, however, Khalatyan probably did not fully understand the nature of the above-mentioned criminal case. According to the statement released by the National Security Service, nothing is said about canceling the decision of the previous government.
Moreover, it is mentioned that Gagik Tsarukyan’s company failed to make all the investments envisaged by the previous government’s decision, and also operated a gaming hall without a license, thus causing billions of drams in damage to the state. As for the question of where exactly in the NSS statement Hayk Khalatyan noticed the issues he had mentioned during Solovyov’s program, it is difficult to give an unequivocal answer.
In our continuous attempt to circumvent the problematic statements made within the framework of the mentioned program, perhaps it is necessary to dwell on the words of another Russian participant of the program- Alexei Martinov.
“Let me remind you that former President Robert Kocharyan is still in custody, and his appeals are not even being discussed,” Martinov said.
And again it is difficult to conceal our bewilderment over the mentioned statement, since the expert participating in the discussion over Armenia’s internal political issues is expected to be aware that the courts of Armenia are mainly engaged in discussing the motions and appeals of Kocharyan’s defense team within the framework of Kocharyan’s case.
Moreover, recently, on June 18, 2020, the Court of Appeal upheld the motion of the defense team to change Kocharyan’s pre-trial detention to bail of 4 billion AMD, and, as a result, Kocharyan is out of prison now.
“Mass” protests in Yerevan
Other Russian media outlets have also covered the events that took place in Yerevan on June 14 and in the following days in connection with PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan. Some of these publications, however, were of a certain manipulative nature and contained some inaccuracies.
In particular, the well-known website Gazeta.ru titled one of its publications as follows: “Tsarukyan – Prime Minister: Armenia demands Pashinyan’s resignation.” Although, it is later mentioned in the publication that there were Tsarukyan’s supporters taking part in the protests, the title gives the impression that there is a public demand in Armenia for Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation from the post of Prime Minister.
Another notable Russian media outlet, Kommersant.ru, headlined its publication as follows: “Pashinyan is challenged by the streets.” It also says that “Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power on the wave of street demonstrations in 2018, faced mass demonstrations against his tenure for the first time.”
It should be noted, however, that on June 14, a maximum of several hundred people took part in a rally in support of Gagik Tsarukyan in front of the NSS building, which even in the case of a small country like Armenia cannot be considered a “mass protest”. As for the title of the publication, just like in case of Gazeta.ru, it gives the impression that there is a wide public backlash against Pashinyan.
Nevertheless, in conclusion, we can state that in the coverage of the Russian media outlets over the events taking place in Armenia, there are many manipulations and inaccuracies, which, in general, can significantly distort the perceptions of the Russian public about the events in Armenia.