YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Armenia Monday on his first official visit since regaining the Russian presidency last year and vowed for a stronger Russian role in the Caucasus.
Days after President Serzh Sarkisian told European leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania that Armenia will continue to pursue “measured” relations with Europe, he met with his Russian counterpart to discuss continued development of the two countries’ strategic partnership, trade and economic relations, as well as Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union.
At a press conference following his meeting, Putin vowed that Russia would do everything in its power to ensure Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union, saying that all steps had been taken toward that goal.
In his remarks, Putin also discussed the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the role Russia plays in the security of the region. He said Russia did not want bloodshed on its borders.
He addressed Azerbaijan’s military threats against Armenia head on saying in the event of resumption of war, “Conditions for a peaceful resolution will be reduced, and other means of resolving the conflict will be reinforced.”
Putin also emphasized that it would be counterproductive to speak about what Russia will do if war resumes. “We must try to solve all disputable issues exceptionally in a political, diplomatic way. That’s what we’ll be aspiring for,” he said.
During the meeting, a number of documents were signed between the two countries. One such document envisions the cancelation of export duties for supplies of natural gas, oil products and diamonds. Another outlined Russian cooperation in nuclear safety.
Putin arrived in Gyumri on Monday morning, where after the official welcoming ceremony, he and Sarkisian attended the third Russian-Armenian Forum, at which the Customs Union was again a priority topic of discussion.
In praising the virtues of the Customs Union, Putin told the Forum that since joining the alliance, Kazakhstan and Belarus have experienced growth in their countries’ gross domestic product during the first half of 2013.
“Membership in the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space has brought tangible dividends to Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus,” said Putin.
Putin said he was confident that Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian integration project “would seriously strengthen its economic potential, improve the investment climate and promote direct business contacts, including those between regions.”
Putin and Sarkisian then traveled to Yerevan, where the Russian president was met with anti-Russian, anti-Customs Union protesters, who clashed with anti-riot police. Some 110 protesters were arrested.
Putin also visited the Dzidzernagapert Memorial Complex and laid a wreath in memory of the Armenian Genocide victims. He also watered the tree he planted during his state visit in 2001 at the complex’s Memorial Alley.
Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, Haik Demoyan, presented Putin with a replica of gold coins minted in Petrograd in 1915. The coins, which depict the two-headed eagle of the Russian Empire and the traditional Armenian Cross were produced to raise funds for Genocide survivors.
While in Gyumri, Sarkisian and Putin visited the Russian military base, commissioned the 5th power unit of Hrazdan Thermal Power Plant and dedicated two stamps commemorating the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.
Putin also honored the victims of the 1988 earthquake by placing a wreath at a memorial in Gyumri.
Gazprom becomes the sole owner of ArmRosGazprom
The Russian Gazprom Company on Monday acquired the last 20 percent of ArmRosGazprom Company, reported Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller.
Miller, who was in Armenia with Putin’s delegation, said ArmRosGazprom will become a Gazprom subsidiary company, adding that “the Russian gas price for Armenia will change, and will be supplied to Armenia at Russia’s domestic rate.”