Yesterday Prime Minister Robert Kocharian became the acting president of Armenia, and Kocharian’s adviser Hozrov Harutiunian — prime minister of Armenia in 1992 and 1993 — was elected chairman of Parliament. The two took over their posts after Parliament Chairman Babken Ararktsian, the two vice-chairman and most committee chairmen resigned under pressure. They had all belonged to the collapsing Armenian Pan-National Movement and its parliamentary bloc Republic. They had also supported the deposed President Levon Ter-Petrosian against his rivals. Under the constitution, Ararktsian would have been first in line to become acting president with Kocharian after him. As a native and former president of Karabakh, Kocharian favors a firm stand by Armenia on that issue and will be able to count on Harutiunian to promote that line in parliament. Presidential elections are due within 40 days. (Noyan-Tapan, Western agencies, February 4)
In Moscow, President Boris Yeltsin went on television to declare Armenia "a part of Russia’s strategic field of interest. It is an Orthodox country. Under no circumstances can we afford to lose Armenia, and we won’t lose it." Yeltsin cautioned the new leadership in Yerevan that "they have nowhere to go and must deal with Russia," but added that "we will also have to accommodate ourselves to them." The Kremlin’s foreign policy coordinator Sergei Yastrzhembsky, praising Ter-Petrosian’s recent flexibility on Karabakh, advised the new leadership in Yerevan "to stick to that very policy and no other and to comply with the OSCE mediators’ proposals." (Russian agencies, Russian TV, February 4) The new leaders in Yerevan, however, have come to power with the declared intention to resist those proposals.