Yerevan's consul-general in St. Petersburg, Hrair Karapetian, has denied local reports that he recognized Russia's annexation of Crimea as "reunification," according to RFE/RL's Armenian Service.
The official website of Russia’s Pskov Oblast published a report earlier this week suggesting Karapetian in a March 24 meeting with Pskov Governor Andrey Turchak "congratulated the Russian official and all Russians on the reunification of Crimea with Russia."
Armenia's relations with Moscow -- and indeed Kyiv -- are under particular scrutiny since Yerevan essentially abandoned hopes of an Association Agreement with the European Union by pledging in September to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
Ukraine's government protested and withdrew its ambassador to Armenia after Yerevan's president endorsed the March 16 referendum in Crimea, which has been occupied by Russian troops and pro-Moscow forces since late February, as legitimate.
Correspondent Aza Babayan writes
of the consul-general in St. Petersburg's denial and the previous statements from Yerevan:
Karapetian rushed to deny the report, saying that his meeting with Turchak was of a ‘fact-finding nature’ and that during it they mostly discussed community issues, as well as issues connected with the development of economic ties between the Pskov Oblast and Armenia.
The Armenian diplomat underscored that he did not make any such statements during the meeting, suggesting that the reporter who covered the event "may have confused something."
“Taking the opportunity, I said that, of course, our official position is -- and both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other sources declared about that -- that the right of peoples to self-determination, which was accepted in relevant UN documents, must be respected. I also cited the example of Nagorno-Karabakh as a self-determined territory and our conversation was limited to that," Karapetian explained.
"Probably the regional correspondent, who was listening to our conversation, concluded for himself that this could be presented as a greeting or congratulation regarding the recognition of Crimea [as part of Russia], and that way the wrongwording appeared. I corrected that, turning to the corresponding news service, the problem was corrected,” Armenia’s consul general to St. Petersburg told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am).
In their telephone conversation on March 19, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin were quoted as stating that the referendum in Crimea “constitutes another case of exercise of peoples’ right to self-determination via free expression of will.”
Ukraine construed that statement as Armenia’s recognition of Russia’s annexation of what official Kyiv and the broader international community still consider to be Ukrainian territory. Last week Ukraine officially recalled its ambassador from Armenia, warning of serious damage to bilateral ties.
Earlier, United States Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern voiced Washington’s disappointment with the Armenian government’s decision to effectively recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea strongly condemned by the West.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday, German Ambassador to Armenia Reiner Morell, however, allowed for this to be a simple statement of Yerevan’s approach towards the right of peoples to self-determination in general. He said the German Embassy in Yerevan had got that understanding from its communication with the Armenian government.
-- RFE/RL Newsroom