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Russia Claims Political Motives In Armenian Charges Against Ex-Leaders

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Japanese counterpart in Moscow on July 31.

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 anticorruption campaign.

Lavrov's remarks on July 31 came after former Armenian President Robert Kocharian was charged with violently putting down protests against his successor in 2008.

Kocharian, who was president from 1998 to 2008, was taken into custody on July 27 after being charged over the deadly dispersion of opposition protesters following the disputed 2008 presidential election.

On the same day, Yuri Khachaturov, the Armenian head of the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization, was charged, like Kocharian, with overturning Armenia's constitutional order in connection with the deaths of 10 protesters in 2008.

Khachaturov and Kocharian have both denied the charges and claimed they are politically motivated.

"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," Lavrov said.

"Moscow, as an ally of Yerevan, has always had an interest in the stability of the Armenian state, and therefore what is happening there must be of concern to us," he said.

Lavrov said his ministry had raised its concerns with the Armenian leadership and was hoping for a "constructive" response.

Lavrov's comment appears to be the first Kremlin rebuke of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian since he came to power in May after leading weeks of street protests against the previous government.

Pashinian recently launched a campaign to stamp out graft, which has resulted in the arrest of several former top officials.

Unlike the leaders of earlier popular movements in Georgia and Ukraine, Pashinian says he wants to maintain good relations with Moscow.

With reporting by AFP and Interfax
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