After the state of emergency was introduced in Armenia, the situation in the country somewhat normalized. The police arrested the instigators of March 1 riots which caused tragic consequences. Four members of the Armenian parliament, Akop Akopyan, Myasnik Malkhasanyan, Sasun Mikaelyan and Khachtur Sukiasyan, faced the deprival of deputy immunity. The country`s Prosecutor General`s Office accused them of rendering support to former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who headed the opposition movement. In accordance with the Article 56.1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, “President of the Republic can be brought to responsibility after he leaves office for actions not related to his status”.
The Armenian national television demonstrated pictures of March 1 events, featuring that those were exactly “peace marchers” who initiated the clashes with the police, while plans to hold meeting near the Matenadaran were hampered by Nikola Pashinyan, Ter-Petrosian closest ally. According to official data, the clashes resulted in 48 injures among the civilians and 117 among the police officers- quite impressive statistics.
The authorities are very likely not to repeat the mistakes. The country’s defence and law enforcement agencies made quite a plain statement. In a televised address, the Armenian Police Chief, Colonel Gegam Petrosian, called on people “not to hold another protest campaign” and warned that “the whole police staff is on the alert to repel any illegal actions”.
In this way the authorities reacted to the rallies organized by Ter-Petrosian and his allies. When the former president addressed his supporters after it was reported about the first victims of the clashes, he asked them to end the protest campaign until the state of emergency expired 20 days later. But one may imagine that the situation may become even worse after March 20 as Levon Ter-Petrosian is notorious for his “surprises”. According to the Head of the Center for Strategic Analysis “Ararat”, Armen Aivazyan, the political situation in Armenia remains very tense. “It does not necessarily mean that immediately after March 20 the opposition will hold new riots, but Saturday events can repeat in this or that way. And that would mark the decline of the Armenian statehood”. Some of the ongoing processes verify the guess. Yet the opposition leaders have not shown even a sign of regret about the March 1 events. It makes us think that from the very beginning these people have more “serious” plans and expected more than 8 dead and hundreds injured…
Now the instigators use the approved tactics of disseminating rumors, aimed at dividing the society into numerous hostile groups. They also disseminate misinformation about corpses in the center of the city and about “the Karabakh special task forces”, who beat pregnant women and children. They told people that robberies in Yerevan were committed by the prisoners who had been released especially for the operation. According to the opposition, the number of peace marches was up to 300,000…Rumors as an instrument of subversive activities proved very effective in times of instability as peoples` minds become more vulnerable to persuasion.
Despite some restrictions imposed by the current state of emergency, the group of instigators do not waste time and try to use all available means to control the information. They try to present the information from Yerevan in a way they would like to see it and try to seize control over the Armenian department of the Radio Liberty. The opposition continues the dissemination of false information by means of SMS messaging and Internet. They try to neutralize every sources of information which do not meet the interests of the opposition party. The Western news agencies and the so-called “human rights activists” provide Ter-Petrosian`s party with external information support by regularly reporting on the authorities` alleged attitude towards “peace marchers”.
However, Ter-Petrosian failed to seize control of the Internet: the information which had already been made public proves that the opposition party had undertaken an attempt of an armed riot. The “peaceful” character of protests on the Freedom Square demonstrated in full that the leader of the radical opposition party had no intentions to behave in a strict accordance with the law, as members of the Armenian Liberation Movement (AOD) insisted. On the contrary, they wanted to destroy a “pyramid of power” as soon as possible, and the former president used to say this before. In an interview given to the journalist V. Dubnov and later published in Yerevan, Levon Ter-Petrosian said: “I do not agree that our party of opposition failed to undermine the vertical of power in Armenia… the March 1 events and the fact that many deputies, diplomats and defence ministry officers backed our position- isn`t it convincing enough? Those were very serious events. Finally we are witnessing the collapse of the state machine”. But when it became clear that all these declarations were just the figment of the mind of an “outstanding scientist”, the events immediately resulted in a tragic outcome.
Ambassador Heikki Talvitie, the Special Envoy of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, was surprised to know that the protesters had been holding their campaign for 9 days running without having an official permission and not being disturbed by the authorities. However, Mr. Talvitie also thinks that “since the opposition in Armenia possessed arms, it was impossible to avoid riots”. Mr. Talvitie did not elaborate on the issue and won`t say where those “peace marchers” could obtain the weapons. However, he has already concluded that both sides are to blame for the tragedy of March 1.
Many western experts were inspired by the events in Yerevan and started playing the roles of mediators between the authorities and its radical opponents. Probably, Ter-Petrosian and his supporters sought such kind of mediation and deliberately caused clashes between the civilians. Mr. Talvitie, who believes that in light of the recent events in Yerevan the presence of foreign observers from the OSCE is absolutely necessary, is not the only Western envoy urgently send to Yerevan. Peter Semnebi, a special representative of the EU for South Caucasus and Head of EC Mission in Armenia Raul Lutzenberger have already arrived, while the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza is on his way to Yerevan.
Javier Solana and Terry Davis have also displayed their concern over the situation in Armenia. Washington appeals calls on the opposing sides to hold a dialogue, and it seems that Mr. Bryza is expected to monitor the process. According to the statement made by the US Department of State, Bryza`s visit to Yerevan should not be interpreted as Washington’s “official mediation” between Armenian authorities and the opposition.
Although the goals sound quite reasonable, it seems that they are needed to press on Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sarkisyan to release the arrested protesters to let them complete their “mission”. A recent statement made by the Slovenian authorities on the behalf of the whole EU reflects this very thought.
Many countries have experienced that the organizers of the “color revolutions” achieve their goals if the authorities, having lost the support of the majority of the population, start looking for allies outside the country and thus become the hostages of external powers. This is what we are witnessing in Armenia today.
For instance, in his statement, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis emphasizes that the investigation into the riots should be carried out in accordance with the law and not be used to pursue the political opponents. And then Mr. Davis presents a standard list of demands where just the only is left behind: the necessity of “international investigation” as it was in 2005 after the riots in Uzbek Andijan. Keeping such standard in mind, any instigator can be called “a political opponent” and then “a political prisoner” or “a prisoner of consciousness”, and thus the opposition may receive another lever to go on with political pressure, blackmail and attempts to control home processes in whatever country…
Being Armenia`s major political and military ally, Russia could have a serious influence on the ongoing process. Moscow is interested in stability in Armenia and in nearby regions.
It must be mentioned that the West displayed its “theatrical” concern over Armenia on March 4, when a big armed clash took place in the Mardakert region in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, the Azeri side used armored vehicles and special task forces. Armenia’s retaliatory measures helped to maintain the status-quo.
As it was suggested earlier, Azerbaijan will try to use unstable political situation in Armenia to strengthen its positions in the region. On February 26 Baku proposed a UN General Assembly draft resolution headlined “Situation on the Azeri occupied territories”, demanding to confirm its borders and its claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. Amid the riots in Yerevan, the announcement made by the Caucasus Project Director of the International Crisis Group, Sabine Freizer was left unnoticed. Ms. Freizer said that Armenia and Azerbaijan had practically reached a territorial accord, although yet failed to agree on the width of the corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and on the mechanism of voting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Ms. Freizer again thought of the situation in a wishful sense. However, another conflict on the Karabakh-Azeri border, especially in view of Mr. Bryza`s visit to Baku, serves as an additional “message” to Armenia to be more flexible towards the demands of the West.
Now the most important task is to overcome the crisis within the country and punish the instigators of the March 1 riots. To enter a brand new era of development, Armenia must get rid of tribal corruption, which took roots during Ter-Petrosian`s presidency. If the authorities fail to do this, Armenia will face hard times.