This is not Yanukovych: Prime Minister Sargsyan will not allow the Maidan in Armenia

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This is not Yanukovych: Prime Minister Sargsyan will not allow the Maidan in Armenia 23.04.2018 15:02

The street protest action in Yerevan, where opposition supporters oppose the appointment of Serzh Sargsyan as former prime minister of Armenia, has been ongoing for a week now. After the country's parliament voted for his election, the protesters announced the beginning of a "velvet revolution" across the country. During this time in the skirmishes with the police suffered 46 people, including six police officers.

In order to get a fresh look at what is happening in Armenia, the correspondent of the Federal News Agency, working at the Second Sochi Forum of Eurasian Integration, took an exclusive interview with the Armenian political scientist and orientalist Vardan Voskanyan, the head of the Department of Iranian Studies at Yerevan State University.


Students, not militants


- Today our common attention is focused on Yerevan, where the opposition between the authorities of the country and the street opposition has been growing since the beginning of the week. How realistic is the scenario of the further escalation of the conflict - or has the acute phase of the crisis already passed?

- At the moment, the former president of Armenia, and from April 17, 2018 - the new Prime Minister of the country, Serzh Sargsyan took the situation in the capital under his control. It is very important as from the point of view of management of official state structures of Armenia, and from the point of view of influence on events on the street. Of course, the acute stage of these street performances can still last for a while, but in my opinion, the peak of the crisis has already passed.


- What is the reason for the current failure of the "Yerevan Maidan"?


- We need to clearly understand why the speeches of the opposition forces in Yerevan became possible. Sargsyan has been in charge of the country for 11 years at various top government positions - since April 2007, when he became prime minister for the first time. This "political permanence" tired the opposition. On the other hand, the opposition has not put forward any reasonable alternatives to Sargsyan's nominee.

In fact, it only exploits the thesis "It must go away," which is not enough to untwist a real protest. Well, one more important factor, undoubtedly, was that street performances in Yerevan were for the time being exceptionally indicative: the opposition did not have a desire to question the structure of power in the country, especially by force. Students went to the streets of Yerevan, not militants.

- But, if you recall the events of EuroMaidan in 2013-2014 in Kiev, it also began as student unrest, the same "onyedetey", and then gradually developed into a violent confrontation with the authorities?

- I believe that the situation in Yerevan is in many respects opposite to the situation in Kiev four years ago. In particular, the figure of Sargsyan is much more authoritative in Armenia than the figure of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych at the time of the unwinding of Euromaidan. The young generation of Armenian citizens may have forgotten the important fact that during the period of Sargsyan's tenure as the Armenian Defense Minister in 1993-1995 an agreement was reached on a truce with Azerbaijan and it was a natural result of the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) war. His authority among the military, among the older generation is indisputable. Moreover, the Armenians understand that the Nagorno-Karabakh problem has not disappeared, and any weakening of power in the country may recover it.


Sensitive issue


- How ready is Armenia for the possible aggravation of the Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan?


- Of course, this kind of conflict is extremely undesirable for us both before and now. Armenia has no interests outside of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). Armenia has no territorial claims to Azerbaijan, and, moreover, the basis of the post-war settlement on our part has been repeatedly proposed the formula of "land in exchange for peace," within which Armenia agrees to withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories in exchange for recognition of Artsakh.


- What stops this kind of development?


- I think that the main barrier is the position of the Azerbaijani elite. They are still stirring up revanchist sentiments within the Azerbaijani society. The attempt to redirect public opinion on issues of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in such a sudden way in Azerbaijan for them is very likely comparable to political suicide. On the other hand, the gradual decrease in the degree of tension is also perceived by the Azerbaijani side as an unfortunate decision - in this case, the "image of the enemy" is left in the public unconscious, and the pressing problems of Azerbaijan itself will come to the forefront.

Interestingly, Armenia has already passed this difficult path: today, Azerbaijanis in Armenia are no longer perceived as enemies - they can freely visit our country. As I see it, this should be the solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

The evolution of Russian-Georgian relations also took place along the same path, although the seemingly lost war "08-08-08" by Georgia tightly closed any options for cooperation. However, today Russian tourists are the best guests in Tbilisi, and no one is waiting for a new Russian-Georgian war in the Caucasus.


- Thanks for the interview. I hope the following news from Yerevan will be more peaceful.