Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 137

In Yerevan, backers of Babayan seek political support by publicizing the corruption allegations which tagged Danielyan during his spectacular career in Ukraine. A Karabakh native, Danielyan became first deputy chairman of the Crimean Supreme Soviet and a leader of the Party of Economic Revival (PEV) in Ukraine. The Supreme Soviet and the PEV were thoroughly infiltrated by organized crime. Ukrainian police cracked down on PEV last year, at which time Danielyan left the scene, to resurface this year in Yerevan.

Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian has visited Stepanakert, accompanied by his defense and national security ministers, Vagharshak Harutiunian and Serge Sarkisian. Kocharian and Serge Sarkisian are Karabakh natives; Kocharian indeed preceded Gukasian as president of Karabakh. The leaders from Yerevan conferred with both contending camps but made clear their support for Gukasian. Kocharian’s concluding communique sided with “the legally elected political leadership” and spoke of an “overdue task to settle civil-military relations in Karabakh”–an implicit slap at Babayan and the politicized military in Karabakh. Kocharian, moreover, officially takes the position that Armenia has a right and an obligation to intervene if necessary in order to maintain internal stability in Karabakh. The wording of those statements would seem to cover both political and military intervention.

Some local observers consider that Yerevan is interested in marginalizing Babayan to clear the way for concessions in the OSCE-mediated negotiations with Azerbaijan. Babayan, a reputed hardliner, is on record as calling for the outright annexation of both the Lachin and Kelbajar districts, which are held–with four other districts–by Karabakh Armenian forces in Azerbaijan proper. The government in Yerevan would settle for some form of de facto control in Lachin and does not lay claims to Kelbajar.

Kocharian and, especially, Armenia’s Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian also seek to reduce Babayan’s influence in the internal politics of Armenia. The Right and Accord party, recently created by Babayan, obtained at least seven seats in the parliamentary elections and is believed to have “sponsored” some additional deputies.

Babayan seems stronger not only militarily but also politically in Karabakh, whereas Gukasian derives most of his strength from the support of official Yerevan. Babayan is poorly placed to protest against Yerevan’s interference, since he himself aspires to a leadership role in Armenia proper. The course of events illustrates the meshing of Armenia and Karabakh into a single military and political system, even as Karabakh formally retains its own state institutions (Noyan-Tapan, Snark, Armenpress, Azg, Respublika Armenia, July 6-15).