Russian politician Konstantin Zatulin and prominent state propagandist Margarita Simonyan have both reportedly been banned from entering Armenia.
On Tuesday, Konstantin Zatulin, the Russian State Duma representative on migration and citizenship, was informed by the Armenian Parliament’s Foreign Relations Department that his presence in Armenia was ‘undesirable’.
The following day, Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russian state-run media RT, claimed she had been banned from entering the country. She described Zatulin as a ‘fierce supporter’ of Armenia. The Armenian authorities have not commented on Simonyan’s claim.
The email sent to Zatulin said that recent public statements he had made had harmed the ‘development of friendly and allied relations between the states’.
Zatulin called the decision ‘insulting’.
Zatulin has been a harsh critic of the Pashinyan government, particularly following the country’s defeat in the 44-day war.
He also recently announced that Armenia had agreed to provide a ‘sovereign’ corridor to Azerbaijan through Armenia. The statement did not correspond to Armenia’s frequently stated position, that Armenia’s ‘sovereign borders’ are non-negotiable.
The apparent entry ban has divided public opinion in Armenia, with some harshly criticising the government and calling their actions a ‘provocation’.
Others have praised the decision. Daniel Ioannisyan, project coordinator for the Union of Informed Citizens, an Armenian rights group, called it the ‘beginning of a historical step’, and suggested that Zatulin could go ‘to Baku or Moscow to invent legends that Armenia is obliged to pass a corridor to Azerbaijan or Russia’.
On Wednesday, Zatulin shared pictures of messages of support which he alleged he had received from Armenians after the news was made public, further claiming that he had received ‘a few thousand’ such messages expressing outrage at the government’s decision.
In the past year, Armenian authorities have banned a number of diaspora Armenians who have supported the political opposition from entering the country. Among them was a prominent diaspora leader from France, whom Yerevan accused of taking part in an attack against Prime Minister Pashinyan.