On June 18, the Armenian government announced that it is considering giving up its minority stake in Armenia’s national gas company ArmRosGazprom (ARG), during the ongoing negotiations with the Russian gas multinational Gazprom, over the price of Russian natural gas delivered to the country. ARG will then be placed under full Russian control.
Opposition lawmakers were quick to criticize the government’s apparent readiness to place ARG under full Russian control. Gazprom currently owns 80 percent of the gas network.
“This once again shows that our authorities are not capable of doing anything,” said Artsvik Minasian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. “They can declare that we will get a grant but we won’t get it or will cede more state assets in return.”
The move comes after the recent increase of the price for Russian gas by 50 percent, which is widely speculated to be a means to pressure Armenia into entering the Russian-led Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. A 30 percent subsidy promised by the Armenian government meant that the price would be less dramatic for Armenian households. Armenian officials said that Yerevan is seeking a Russian ‘grant’ to finance the subsidy. But they have given no details of the arrangements so far. ‘The option of giving our shares to Gazprom is also on the table, assuming of course that we get proper compensation from them’, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisian told journalists.
In a recent interview, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan also revealed that negotiations were underway with the Russian side on the possibility of Moscow compensating 30 percent of the price in the form of a grant. He said that Moscow positively responded to this proposal from Yerevan, but the matter still had to be discussed and approved domestically in Russia. In the same interview PM Sargsyan for the first time stopped short of ruling out Armenia’s entry into the Customs Union.
On June 19, Armenia played down the media reports that Russia has begun delivering $1 billion worth of military equipment to Azerbaijan. It stated that Baku will not gain a decisive military advantage in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Some regard both the increased gas price and the delivery of advanced military equipment to Azerbaijan as part of increasing the pressure on the Armenian government to join the Customs Union, and actively cooperate in the forming of the Eurasian Union, the creation of which was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin as his major foreign policy goal. The Eurasian Union is compared by many observers to a revival of the Soviet Union, as a counterweight to the European Union, integration with which is the goal of some of Russia’s neighbouring countries.
Sources: Asbarez, Armenia Now, Haberler, Armenia Liberty