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Russian-Armenian Tycoon Unhappy With Yerevan

By Armen Zakarian

Ara Abrahamian, Russia’s most famous Armenian-born businessman, voiced on Tuesday his discontent with Armenia’s government, saying that it is not helping him “unite” the worldwide Diaspora and is obstructing his business projects in Yerevan.

“I have no differences with the authorities,” the Kremlin-backed tycoon told a news conference in Yerevan. “I’m simply saying that they are doing nothing to work with the Diaspora and the Union of Armenians of Russia and the World Armenian Congress in particular.”

Abrahamian, who is the founding leader of both organizations, complained in particular that he is unable to start construction on a plot of land along a new street which is being built in downtown Yerevan by private investors. But he refused to specify what exactly keeps him from taking part in the massive real estate development.

Abrahamian owns and has for years been reconstructing a big trading center located in that area. It is not clear if he was referring to that property.

Abrahamian, who has extensive interests in the Russian diamond industry, was more willing to discuss his stated efforts to facilitate international recognition of the Armenian genocide and promote Diaspora “unity.” “We are doing whatever we can, but I must say that other organizations and the government of Armenia are very passive, which is not resulting in anything good,” he said, referring to the World Armenian Congress.

The ambitious group was set up with Moscow’s blessing in 2003. The Armenian government’s reaction to the initiative has been less than enthusiastic. President Robert Kocharian personally voiced misgivings about Abrahamian’s attempts to put all major Diaspora communities under a single umbrella structure. Leading Armenian organizations in the United States and Western Europe have also viewed the group with suspicion.

Abrahamian said he demonstrated his good will by donating $200,000 to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) at a weekend fundraiser in Paris. Dashnaktsutyun, which is particularly influential in the Diaspora, raised a total of $1.7 million for its efforts at genocide recognition.

The Russian-Armenian tycoon was also anxious to stress that he disapproves of the Armenian opposition’s attempts to replicate Western-backed popular revolts that toppled the ruling regimes in Ukraine and Georgia.

“I am very much against orange or rose revolutions,” he said, echoing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s views. “We must not allow such things to happen here. Nobody knows what their consequences would be.”

It is still not clear if Kocharian will agree to receive Abrahamian this week. The businessman said the meeting will “likely” take place on Wednesday.

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