Armenian detention of pro-Russian figures ignites diplomatic tensions
Armenian officials have detained Ashot Gevorgyan, a columnist for Sputnik Armenia, and pro-Russian blogger Mikael Badalyan for 72 hours on charges of illegal arms trafficking. This latest development, reported by the Tass news agency, has heightened tensions between Armenia and Russia, with the latter perceiving the arrests as a deliberate attempt to destabilize bilateral relations.
Yevgeny Primakov, the head of Rossotrudnichestvo, announced on a Telegram channel that Badalyan disappeared in Goris on September 6. Primakov pointed out that the day before his disappearance, Badalyan had openly criticized the Armenian government on his radio show for its perceived "anti-Russian policies".
In response, the Investigative Committee of Armenia announced the arrest of seven people, including Badalyan and Gevorgyan, in the Syunik region on September 6 and 7 on suspicion of illegal firearms trafficking. The identities of the other detainees were not disclosed. Liana Grigoryan, Gevorgyan's legal representative, confirmed the 72-hour detention. A submachine gun, grenades, and live ammunition were seized during the investigation. The defense teams of both individuals claim that the weapons found were not in their possession.
Russian authorities have expressed concern. Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, concluded that these arrests were a strategic move by Armenia to damage relations between the two nations. Recalling Badalyan's past, Primakov noted that he had faced imprisonment before, and many believed these charges were politically motivated. The Russian Embassy in Yerevan is closely monitoring the unfolding events and has expressed concern for the well-being of the detainees. In addition, Ivan Melnikov, Vice President of the Russian Section of the International Committee for the Protection of Human Rights, has asked the Armenian Prosecutor General, Anna Vardapetyan, for assistance in securing the release of the two individuals.