Russian State-Run Television Airs Program Disparaging Pashinyan and Saying Russia Should Control the “Zangezur Corridor”
The escalation of tensions between Armenia and Russia took on new form when Russia’s state-run Channel One aired an hour-long program criticizing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for his government’s handling of the Artsakh issue, and, among other issues, advancing the imperative for the opening of the so-called “Zangezur Corridor” to be controlled by Russia.
The program, which aired on Monday evening, was deemed so “insulting” that Armenia’s Foreign Ministry handed a protest note to Russia after summoning its ambassador to Armenia Sergey Kopyrkin on Tuesday.
“In connection with the program aired on October 23 on the all-Russian federal TV channel Channel One, during which insulting and absolutely unacceptable statements were made against high-ranking officials of the Republic of Armenia, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Sergey Kopyrkin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Armenia,” a statement by the foreign ministry said Tuesday when the protest note was also presented.
The growing rift between Moscow and Yerevan has also spilled into other facets of bi-lateral relations, with the Speaker of the Russian Duma, Viasheslav Volodin, announcing that it has tabled a measure that would recognize Armenia-issued drivers’ licenses as identification.
“We thought it appropriate to delay the [ratification of] the measure, which grant additional privileges [to Armenian citizens], since Armenia’s National Assembly members and the government have not taken any steps on the issue of the status of the Russian language,” Volodin said.
He explained that Belarus and Kyrgyzstan have also determined the status of Russian language in their countries through Constitutional amendments.
Then on Monday Channel One, the leading state-run television channel, aired an hour-long program entitled “Nikol Pashinyan: The Bearer of Calamity,” in which Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his circle, including National Security Chief Armen Grigoryan and Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan were labeled as “Soros agents,” referring to the American billionaire George Soros whose “democracy-building” contributions to emerging democracies have caused domestic havoc in some of the recipient countries.
The program did not shy away from emphasizing the more than 30 billion-ruble (over $320 million) annual funding Armenia receives from Moscow, as well as that four Russian military basis operating in Armenia where some 4,000 Russian border units are deployed, Azatutyun.am reported having translated the content of the show.
As relations have worsened between the two countries, Russia has signaled its support for the controversial land corridor from Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan through Armenia—a move Yerevan vehemently opposed and called an infringement on Armenia’s sovereign territory.
The Channel One program also featured a government official who, according to Azatutyun.am, claimed to have participated in meetings of the deputy prime ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, who are tasked with untangling the transport routes between the two countries and the more complex task of delimiting and demarcating the borders.
The Russian official featured on the program did not mince words when asserting that Russia’s goal and desire is to take control of the so-called road connecting Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan.
“The 45-kilometer [almost 15 miles] road, called the Zangezur Corridor, has to be built,” the official said on the Channel One program. “We don’t understand why Armenia is against it.”