Staunton, January 22 – Fearful that Armenian anger could lead to a break with Moscow or even spark an orange-style revolution in Yerevan, Moscow has agreed that the Russian soldier who has now confessed to killing an Armenian family in Gyurmri will be tried in Armenia but in a Russian court with Russian laws.
Whether that concession will be sufficient to calm Armenian outrage at this murder is unclear, but it is already angering some Russians who view what Moscow has done as a violation of the Constitution’s declaration that Moscow won’t take such steps and who fear this will open the door to more Russian concessions not only in Armenia but elsewhere.
After meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan earlier this week, Aleksandr Bastrykin, the head of the Investigations Committee of Russia, said that Valery Permyakov’s trial would take place in Gyumri and not in Russia as many Armenians feared but that it would be in a Russian court and under Russian laws (regnum.ru/news/polit/1886393.html).
That decision became easier for Moscow to make after Permyakov confessed, but it has done to calm anger among Russians who fear that this is “a dangerous precedent which may force Russia every time to hand over its soldiers into the hands of the courts of another country,” Regnum reports, and may have done little to calm anger among Armenians about the case.
Indeed, there are indications that Armenian officials plan to exploit this Russian concession as much as possible. The Investigation Committee of Armenia has already filed charges against Permyakov, something that might seem irrelevant if a Russian court is going to judge him (inforesist.org/rossijskij-voennosluzhashhij-permyakov-priznal-svoyu-vinu-v-ubijstve-armyanskoj-semi/).
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said yesterday that outsiders are trying to “politicize” the case, adding that in his view “the proud Armenian people will never fall for such provocations” because “everything needed for the investigation of this tragedy will be done” and as a result “Russian-Armenian relations will not suffer” (regnum.ru/news/polit/1886572.html).
But others are not so sure, either that the source of the problem is “outside provocations” or that it is going to be as easily resolved as Lavrov clearly hopes it will be. In a commentary for Profile.ru, Ivan Sukhov says that Russian analysts are increasingly making a distinction between Sargsyan and the Armenian people (profile.ru/eks-sssr/item/91386-proshel-soldat-po-gorodu).
Sargsyan remains committed to an alliance with Moscow, Sukhov says Russian specialists say, but his silence at the time of the Gyumri crime has cost him and Moscow support in the Armenian population, an increasing number of whom won’t vote for him in upcoming elections. And that could trigger a radical shift in Armenia’s position both at home and abroad.
And events in Armenia could move even more rapidly along the trajectory Georgia already passed, something that would not be in Moscow’s interests but something for which Russia must now be prepared. Hence its concessions over the handling of Permyakov, but these may not be nearly enough.