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armenialiberty: Russian-Armenian Tycoon Denies Falling Out With Yerevan

By Artur Terian in Moscow

Ara Abrahamian, the ambitious Russian-Armenian tycoon, said on Thursday that the electoral fiasco of an Armenian party sponsored by him will not affect his declared multimillion-dollar investment and charity programs in Armenia.

“The economic and social programs which we have in Armenia will continue to be implemented,” he told RFE/RL by phone. “So there is no change there.”

Earlier, Abrahamian voiced his frustration for the failure of his Ramkavar Azatakan Party of Armenia (HRAK) to win any parliament seats in the May 25 elections. He blamed the group’s poor showing on vote manipulation and hinted strongly that he might withdraw his support for President Robert Kocharian.

Many analysts expected that the Armenian authorities will help the HRAK pass the 5 percent threshold for entering the National Assembly under the system of proportional representation in view of Abrahamian’s unequivocal endorsement of Kocharian’s reelection bid earlier this year. The party also hoped to lure many voters with the tycoon’s pledge to invest $50 million into the struggling Armenian economy.

The election outcome fueled speculation that Kocharian is keen to limit Abrahamian’s political clout inside Armenia. It was reinforced by last week’s ouster of the HRAK’s longtime leader and close Abrahamian associate, Ruben Mirzakhanian. Mirzakhanian stepped down after a surprise inner-party revolt.

But Abrahamian, who heads Russia’s largest Armenian organization and has important connections in the Kremlin, claimed that he will continue to “cooperate” with the HRAK. “We have relied on the party, not an individual,” he said. Still, he made it clear that his mental “horizon is broader than a single party.”

The businessman’s most ambitious idea is to set up a global organization representing millions of ethnic Armenians around the world. He has been touring various Armenian communities abroad to discuss the idea with their leaders and plans to hold the organization’s founding congress in Moscow this October. Incidentally, his visits are extensively covered by state-controlled Russian media.

Abrahamian was speaking to RFE/RL on Thursday on his way from New York to Washington where he said he will meet with Bush administration officials and members of the U.S. Congress. He said he will likely pay another visit to Washington in December to talk to more high-level U.S. officials. A meeting with President George W. Bush is also possible, he claimed.

Abrahamian has already had an audience with French President Jacques Chirac during a visit to Paris last month.

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