Arrest of former Armenian president jars Russia

Robert Kocharyan, the president of Armenia from 1998 to 2008 has been arrested on charges of “overthrowing the constitutional order” during the presidential election of 2008. The investigators accuse Mr Kocharyan of rigging the poll in favour of his successor, Serzh Sarksyan, and violently putting down subsequent protests.

Mr Kocharyan has denied the charges, claiming that they are politically motivated, instrumented by Armenia’s new prime minister Nikol Pashinyan.

“These charges are fiction, fabricated, unjustified and have a political implication,” he said. “I am prepared to go to prison.”

Following the 2008 vote the opposition held protest rallies, contesting the results of the election and claiming that their candidate, Levon Ter-Petrosyan had won. The protests were violently dispersed by security forces, and 10 people were killed in clashes with police. Armenia’s Constitutional Court upheld the election results.

Mr Kocharyan has repeatedly defended the post-election crackdown in 2008, saying that it prevented a violent of seizure of power by the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition. Earlier this year, he blamed Pashinyan for the bloodshed.

The arrest of the former president has caused a great deal of controversy, not confined to within Armenia’s borders.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is “concerned” that Armenia’s new leadership is making what he called politically motivated moves against former leaders who have been targeted in an anti-corruption campaign.

“The events of the last few days…contradict the recent declarations of the new Armenian leadership that it was not planning to pursue its predecessors on political grounds,” said Mr Lavrov.

Mr Pashinyan was swept into office on earlier this year following weeks of mass protests against corruption and cronyism.