Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian pledged to strive for a “great repatriation” of Armenians living abroad as hundreds of them greeted him at the start of his first visit to Russia late on Sunday.
Pashinian was mobbed by ethnic Armenian supporters after arriving in the Russian city of Sochi to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and attend a summit of five former Soviet republics. Many of them shook hands and took selfies with the 42-year-old premier in and outside a local Armenian church where he prayed and lit candles.
Pashinian thanked many members of Russia’s large Armenian community for supporting his protest movement when he addressed the jubilant crowd chanting “Nikol!” in the church courtyard.
He also said: “I want to thank brotherly Russia for having created such conditions for the Armenian people. But I also want to say that our aim is a great repatriation. Our aim is to concentrate a considerable portion of the human, financial, economic, spiritual and scientific potential of the [Diaspora] Armenians in Armenia and to ensure its security and sustainable development.”
“I am calling on Russian and Armenian businessmen from Russia to come to Armenia and invest and create jobs there because it’s now a new Armenia where every investment will be protected and no investment will be at risk,” he said in an impromptu speech.
“I am happy to see your happy eyes and proud of seeing your proud eyes,” added Pashinian. “I am serving each of your and let nobody doubt that our struggle will earn Armenia, the Armenian people and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) new victories every day, every week and every year.”
Pashinian has repeatedly pledged to speed up economic growth in Armenia by breaking up de facto monopolies, separating business from politics and improving the broader investment climate. His newly formed cabinet is due to present a comprehensive policy program to the parliament by the end of this month.
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians have left their country since the 1990s in search of employment abroad and Russia in particular.