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.
Moscow Tycoon Reveals Ransom For Release Of Armenian Pilots
By Karine Kalantarian 09/28/2005
Ara Abrahamian, an Armenian-born Russian tycoon, said on Wednesday that the recent release of six Armenian pilots controversially imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea cost him $2 million in `investments' in the west African nation's infrastructure.
The aircrew of an Armenian cargo plane were set free in June after spending more than a year in a notorious local jail on dubious coup charges. They were arrested in March 2004 and sentenced to between 14 and 24 years' imprisonment last November along with a group of South African nationals on charges of involvement in a reported plot to topple Equatorial Guinea's longtime president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Their trial was denounced as `grossly unfair' by Amnesty International.
Abrahamian, known for his Kremlin connections, was instrumental in the pilots' release and he explained why. `The pledges which I gave to the president of Equatorial Guinea have been fulfilled by 100 percent,' he told reporters in Yerevan. `We have invested more than $2 million in building a water supply system in Equatorial Guinea.'
`There were also other pledges and they have all been fulfilled,' he added without elaborating.
Abrahamian, who heads the largest organization of ethnic Armenians in Russia, began trying to secure the pilots' liberation at the beginning of this year, after the failure of similar efforts by Armenia's government. He repeatedly visited Equatorial Guinea's capital Malabo to discuss the matter with Obiang.
`We made friends and now keep in touch,' Abrahamian said, adding that Obiang, whose regime is regarded by the United States as one of the most repressive in the world, has accepted his invitation to visit Moscow.
The Russian-Armenian tycoon is currently spearheading a similar rescue mission in another African country, Nigeria, where a group of Russian sailors are kept in prison on smuggling charges. He on Wednesday predicted their imminent release and cited a price tag of $1 million.
But Abrahamian insisted that money alone could not buy the freedom of the Armenian and Russian prisoners. `It requires a lot of work and participation of many people,' he said vaguely. `The investments are only a small part of our work. You will soon see what is happening in Nigeria.'
Turning to the situation in Armenia, Abrahamian signaled an improvement of his relations with the country's leadership and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian in particular. He credited the latter with the elimination of unspecified problems which he said hampered his involvement in the ongoing massive redevelopment in central Yerevan.
The businessman has previously criticized the authorities in Yerevan for their lack of enthusiasm about his unsuccessful efforts to set up a Moscow-based global organization representing Armenians scattered around the world. He also held them responsible for the failure of a small party sponsored by him to win any parliament seats in Armenia's 2003 elections.
Abrahamian claimed that the Ramkavar Azatakan Party was not the only group that enjoyed his financial backing in 2003 but refused to name names. `I will do the same in the 2007 elections,' he said. `Time will tell which party [I will back]. Nobody has approached me yet. We will provide appropriate assistance in accordance with Armenia's laws.'
Armenian law prohibits parties and other election contenders from accepting any material assistance from foreign nationals.
Abrahamian was also asked if he is ready to endorse Sarkisian in the next presidential election due in 2008. `He has helped me a lot and we have very good relations,' he replied. `But I must first know whether or not he will run [for president]. More importantly, I must know his platform and his team. I will then make a decision.'
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ French President Jacques Chirac has signed a decree on awarding well-known public figure, businessman, President of the Union of Armenians of Russia and UNESCO Good Will Ambassador Ara Abrahamyan with the highest decoration of the French Republic - the Legion of Honor. `Ara Abrahamyan has done much to develop the Russian-French relations,' Russian Ambassador to France Aleksandr Avdeyev said. `He co-chairs the Russian-French Dialogue non-governmental association, sponsored by Presidents V. Putin and J. Chirac,' the Ambassador said. `Ara Abrahamyan has assisted in the erection of the monument to the Soviet Soldier at Pere Lachaise French Cemetery marking the 60th anniversary of the Great Victory. He has organized productive bilateral business meetings, as well as a Russian Film Festival in Onfler Norse city,' Avdeyev remarked. `I think Ara Abrahamyan has deserved the French awarding him the highest decoration,' he said. Napoleon has established the Legion of Honor in 1802. The decoration is awarded for outstanding services to France and has 5 degrees, Itar-Tass reported.
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