Thursday, April 20, 2006

Intellectuals Urge Popular Revolt Against `Criminal Regime'

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 04/18/2006
By Emil Danielyan

A group of prominent intellectuals highly critical of Armenia's leadership on Tuesday strongly condemned its latest controversial energy deal with Russia, urging Armenians to topple their government by `all possible means.'

In a joint statement, they said the transfer of more Armenian energy facilities to Russia's Gazprom gas monopoly has dealt a `severe blow from behind' to Armenian statehood and is aimed at enabling the administration of President Robert Kocharian to `retain and reproduce its power.' `With the sale of the Fifth Unit of the Hrazdan thermal power plant, our country has not only lost the final pillar of its national security and statehood, energy security, but also driven a wedge into the friendly and mutually beneficial Armenian-Iranian relationship,' said the statement.

Under the deal announced early this month, Gazprom will gain control over the Hrazdan power plant and reportedly an Armenian-Iranian gas pipeline currently under construction in return for scaling back a surge in the price of Russian gas for Armenia until the end of 2008. The Russian energy giant will also significantly boost its stake in Armenia's gas infrastructure.

The deal is expected to give Moscow a near total control over the Armenian energy sector. Implications of this fact have been downplayed by Armenian officials, with President Robert Kocharian noting that `energy security and energy independence are different things.'

But Kocharian's political opponents claim the opposite, saying that Armenia will pay dearly for its increasing economic dependence on Russia. The six signatories of the statement, who lead the pro-opposition Armenian Intellectual Forum, are of the same opinion. Among them are renowned poetess Silva Kaputikian, actor Yervand Manarian and Rafael Ghazarian, a veteran member of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the leaders of the 1988 popular movement for Nagorno-Karabakh's reunification with Armenia.

`The Intellectual Forum ¦ is calling on the country's entire population to return power, usurped by the criminal regime, to the people by all possible means,' reads their statement.

The Intellectual Forum has for months been pressing for a nationwide campaign of street protests against the government. Its efforts to rally Armenia's divided opposition groups around the idea have not been successful so far.

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