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Armenia/Russia: Former Soviet Prime Minister Endorses Close Ties

Yerevan, 7 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - A Russian State Duma delegation headed by former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov arrived in Armenia yesterday to hold discussions with Armenian leaders and inspect the Russian military base in Armenia.

In a meeting with the public last night, Ryzhkov told the audience that Russia wants to continue close relations between Russia and Armenia. The meeting was apparently organized by the Armenian Communist Party. Ryzhkov criticized testimony given to a closed session of the Duma last week by General Lev Rokhlin, chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee concerning Russian arms transfers to Armenia.

Ryzhkov said that Rokhlin's negative statements about Armenia are damaging to Russian-Armenian relations and are not shared by other Russian politicians. Ryzhkov also said that Russia needs to maintain a military presence in Armenia in order to defend the common interests of both countries.

Ryzhkov expressed approval of the proposed new Russian-Armenian treaty on friendship and cooperation. Presidential press spokesman Levon Zurabian told journalists in Yerevan on March 31 that Armenia has its own ways of strengthening ties with Russia and will not join the Russia-Belarus Union.