Sunday, 12 April 2015

Armenian News @... I thought that 'Armenian News' wold be a Kardashian-free zone...

Then I got an email from a senior US Armenian diaspora political 
leader admonishing me for underestimating  the impact of the family
on Armenian issues. There followed an passionate phone call 
from a UK resident (while watching the TV coverage from Yerevan) 
saying much the same.

So I'll include some articles this time. Any that follow will have to
pass the test that their content have a discernible benefit to the
country, its people and its issues, and not to their own PR.

RFE/RL Report
Kim Kardashian Starts Landmark Trip To Armenia
Narine Ghalechian

Kim Kardashian, the world-famous U.S. reality TV star of Armenian
descent, began on Wednesday a first-ever visit to Armenia that will
put her ancestral homeland under an international spotlight.

Kardashian arrived at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport together with her
husband, American rapper Kanye West, daughter North and sister
Khloe. They were accompanied by camera crews from a U.S. 
broadcaster that will film several episodes of the reality series "Keeping 
Up With The Kardashians."

No official meetings or press conferences are planned during the
high-profile trip timed to coincide with the 100th century of the
Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. Kardashian and her family
members are expected to visit the genocide memorial in Yerevan.

In her social media posts closely followed by tens of millions of
people around the world, Kardashian, 34, has repeatedly called for a
greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide. "Until
this crime is resolved truthfully and fairly, the Armenian people will
live with the pain of what happened to their families and the fear of
what might happen again to their homeland," she wrote in 2011.

Armenia - U.S. reality TV star Khloe Kardashian and rapper Kanye West
are greeted at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport, 8Apr2015.

"I'm very happy to be here," Kardashian told Armenian reporters when
she emerged from Zvartnots's VIP lounge guarded by over a dozen police
officers and security agents. She declined to answer other questions
before proceeding to downtown Yerevan in a motorcade escorted by a
police car.

Police were also deployed outside the city's Armenia Marriott Hotel
where Kardashian and her family will stay for the next few
days. Kardashian waved to about 100 sympathizers, curious onlookers,
photographers and cameramen standing nearby as she made her way into
the hotel. 

That Kim Kardashian is one of the most acclaimed Armenians worldwide
is a fact of objective reality, so her visit to Armenia is thought
to be a good opporunity to make the country's name a brand, says a
PR specialist.

"I find that we must use all the possible chances to spread Armenia's
brand around the world. I do not even speak about a trade mark; I
mean Armenia as a country, which we could make recognizable through
a PR campaign," Vigen Hakobyan told, commenting on the
celebrity's visit.

The expert said he thinks that just one photo of Kardashian near
temples of Garni and Geghard (pagan-era historical monuments in
Kotayk region) or Lake Sevan would be enough for internationalizing
Armenia and making the country known to hundreds and millions people
who haven't heard about it before.

He added that the visit could also be a good chance for
internationalizing the Armenian Genocide recognition campaign.

"This visit alone will not develop Armenia's economy, but Armenia,
as a brand, will have its own place on the tour maps of millions of
people. For that class of individuals - we want it or not - Armenia
may be not just a country as such but Kardashian's country."

According to Nona Melkonyan, an associate professor at the Yerevan
State Univeristy's Chair of Social Work and Social Technologies,
it is not surprising at all that the visit of a celebrity like
Kardhashian might cast a shadow on numerous other events and very
different problems in Armenia.

"We heard of a soldier's death on the frontline, but the [report]
simply got lost in the news flow. We had internal political problems,
which were lost too," she told our correspondent.

RFE/RL Report 
Armenian PM Meets Visiting Kardashians
9 Apr2015.

Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian praised Kim Kardashian for promoting
Armenia on Thursday when he met with the Armenian-American TV star 
and her family members on the second day of their visit to the country of
their ancestors.

Abrahamian also hailed Kardashian's vocal support for a greater
international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman
Empire. He noted that her high-profile trip comes on the eve of the
100the anniversary of the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians by
the Ottoman Turks, which will be officially marked on April 24.

Armenia - Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian (second from right) meets
with Kim Kardashian, her sister Khloe and cousins, Yerevan, 9Apr2015.
"Hovik Abrahamian emphasized the fact that just like many Armenians
scattered around the world, the Kardashians have not forgotten their
roots and are making our country more recognizable with their trip to
their historic homeland," read a statement released by Abrahamian's

"The Kardashians stressed that they will continue to actively fight
for international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian
Genocide and stressed the importance of consolidation of all Armenians
around this cause," it said.

The statement also said that Kardashian and her sister Khloe
apologized for not speaking Armenian and pledged to learn the

The famous sisters and two other women thought to be their cousins met
the Armenian premier after strolling in downtown Yerevan and taking
selfies with local fans. They also visited the city's Victory Park,
home to a Second World War memorial, and posed for a photograph in
front of Mother Armenia, a giant statue.

"Mother Armenia statue symbolizes peace through strength," Khloe
blogged on her Instagram page afterwards. "It can remind viewers of
some of the prominent female figures in Armenian history. Who took up
arms to help their husbands in their clashes with Turkish troops and
Kurdish irregulars."

Kim Kardashian called her first-ever trip to Armenia a "journey of a
lifetime" after arriving in Yerevan on Wednesday evening together with
her husband, rapper Kanye West, and 2-year-old daughter North. "Thank
[you] everyone who greeted us," she wrote on Twitter.

"I can't wait to explore our country and have some yummy food!" the
34-year-old tweeted the following morning.

RFE/RL Report
Another Karabakh War `Unthinkable' For Russia
Aza Babayan ## Emil Danielyan

Russia is strongly opposed to any attempts to resolve the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by military means, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday after talks with his visiting Armenian
counterpart Edward Nalbandian.

Lavrov also described Armenia as his country's "reliable partner and
ally." "We value our centuries-old relations which have been cemented
by the historical, cultural and spiritual proximity between the
peoples of the two states," he told a joint news conference in
Moscow. "These relations have been developing steadily and have taken
on a new quality in the context of Armenia's accession to the Eurasian
Economic Union."

The meeting with Nalbandian "reaffirmed the strategic and allied
character of Russian-Armenian relations, added Lavrov.

The unresolved Karabakh conflict was high on the agenda of the
talks. Lavrov said that Russia will continue to "actively" mediate
Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks within the framework of the OSCE
Minsk Group, which it co-heads together with the United States and

"We don't even assume that the Nagorno-Karabakh will enter a `hot'
phase," stressed the chief Russian diplomat. "I am convinced that
despite [bellicose] rhetoric none of the interested parties wants

Lavrov made the comment in response to a reporter's question about
whether Moscow is ready to fulfill its "military obligations" to
Yerevan in the face of Baku's regular threats to regain control over
not only Karabakh but what President Ilham Aliyev calls "historic
Azerbaijani lands" in Armenia proper. He noted that Russia and Armenia
are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a defense
pact of six ex-Soviet states.

Nalbadian's visit to Moscow comes amid what appears to be growing
Armenian discontent with recent years' large-scale sales of Russian
offensive weapons to Azerbaijan. President Serzh Sarkisian publicly
warned last month that they could undermine Russian-Armenian ties.

Russian State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin defended the
Russian-Azerbaijani arms deals, worth an estimated $4 million since
2010, when he visited Yerevan later in March. Speaking at a meeting
with Armenian lawmakers, Naryshkin emphasized their commercial
significance to Moscow.

Critics in Armenia dismiss such explanations. They say that the
Russians only increase the likelihood of another war in Karabakh by
assisting in Azerbaijan's massive military buildup.

Lavrov pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal
involvement last year in international efforts to prevent a further
escalation tensions in the conflict zone. Putin hosted in August
emergency talks between his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts
following an upsurge in deadly truce violations there.

Speaking at the news conference with Lavrov, Nalbandian again blamed
Azerbaijan for the lack of progress in the Karabakh peace process. He
claimed that Baku rejects key elements of the international mediators'
Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement and their concrete proposals
to bolster the ceasefire regime.

Earlier this week, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry denounced similar
claims made by Nalbandian in an interview with a Russian magazine. A
ministry spokesman also said that the Armenian side itself is
reluctant to start negotiation on a comprehensive Armenian-Azerbaijani
peace accord.

Yerevan argues such negotiations would be meaningless in the absence
of an agreement on the Basic Principles outlining the key terms of
Karabakh peace. 

YEREVAN, April 9. Armenia's domestic trade turnover dropped
by 6.9% in January-February 2015 to AMD 269.8 billion, the National
Statistical Service of Armenia reports.

Retail trade accounted for about 63% of the overall volume and
amounted to AMD 170 billion in January-February, a reduction of 6.5%
as compared to the same period of the year before.

At the same time, wholesale trade fell by 6.4% in the period and
accounted for 33.8% of the overall domestic trade (about AMD 91.2

According to the statistics, store trade accounted for a substantial
share of the retail trade - 69.8% or AMD 118.6 billion. Trading at
commodity markets was over AMD 13.5 billion or 8% of the overall
retail trade, according to the report. ($1 - 474.99 drams).

RFE/RL Report
Tighter Credit Adds To Economic Downturn In Armenia
Hovannes Shoghikian

Rising interest rates and stricter lending rules set by commercial
banks after recent exchange rate fluctuations are dealing another blow
to economic growth in Armenia which looks set to slow down
considerably this year.

According to official statistics, the average cost of borrowing in the
country rose by 2 percentage points in February to 19 percent despite
a stabilization of the Armenian dram's exchange rate. The dram had
weakened by roughly 17 percent against the U.S. dollar since October,
leading the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) to sharply raise its
benchmark refinancing rate.

Lending has also been complicated by Armenian commercial banks'
apparent fears of renewed dram depreciation. This has translated into
stricter requirements for businesses seeking credit. As a result, the
total amount of commercial lending fell by 23 billion drams ($48
million) in February compared to January, according to the National
Statistical Service (NSS). NSS data also shows a sizable increase in
the share of "bad loans" in the banks' credit portfolios.

"In this situation we are trying to look at things and assess our
risks more rigorously before extending loans," Mihran Khachatrian, a
senior executive of the VTB Armenia bank, told RFE/RL's Armenian
service ( on Thursday.

Hrachya Tokhmakhian, the executive director of the Armenian branch of
the U.S. microfinance organization FINCA International, reported a
record-high number of clients, most of them small business owners,
unable to repay their loans on time. He said that is the result of
falling multimillion-dollar remittances from Armenians working in
recession-hit Russia.

"There is still lending but it's down," said Babken Tunian, an
economic writer for the "168 Zham" newspaper. "The decreased credit
portfolios mean that the banks now spend more time on getting their
money back than lending it."

The CBA blames the recent exchange rate volatility, also caused by the
remittance fall, for the tighter credit. It has warned that commercial
banks and microcredit firms must provide written explanations for
every decision to turn down a loan application.

The Armenian government registered an economic growth rate of 3.4
percent last year. It forecast as recently as in November that
Armenia's Gross Domestic Product will increase by 4 percent in 2015.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund now expect much
slower growth because of the knock-on effects of Russia's economic
troubles. A senior IMF official said on Wednesday that the Armenian
economy may not grow at all this year.

Eurasia Review
April 9 2015

Such a particular perception of the conflict with Azerbaijan, which
has established roots in the Armenian society, threatens with a
defeated Yerevan
By Fuad Huseinzadeh

It seems as though Nagorny Karabakh is back as if in the early 1990s.

The conflict zone is restless again. Almost every day the Azerbaijani
Defense Ministry reports that the enemy's armed forces, who settled in
lands that are not theirs, are launching shells towards the Azerbaijani
positions several dozen times a day, having even used large-caliber
machine-guns in the past few days, and also carry out subversive and
reconnaissance actions. However, the situation in the conflict zone
is completely the opposite of the developments that took place 20
years ago.

Since the start of the year 2015, Armenian armed forces have suffered
heavy losses at the front line. The precise number is not known,
but NGOs that monitor the area argue that the actual losses are much
higher in number than stated officially. Since the beginning of March
alone, Armenians have lost more than two dozen soldiers at the line
of contact. Twenty of them were victims of the March 19 attack on
Azerbaijani positions, carried out near the village of Gulustan in
Goranboy District.

The Armenians thoroughly tried to conceal the actual number of the
killed soldiers and said that their losses were five times fewer.

However, they stopped making these ardent claims after the Azerbaijani
Defense Ministry publicized recently a video recording showing the
elimination of these saboteurs.

Incidentally, the Armenians blame their own military for the cease-fire
violation. A video report aired by their TV channels showed Armenians
who live in Azerbaijan's occupied lands saying that it was Armenian
soldiers who started shooting, and the return fire from Azerbaijan
does not allow the population to live a quiet and prosperous life.

Even before the stir around the latest act of sabotage by Armenia
collapses, just a few days later, another development took place,
not in Yerevan's favor either. A soldier of the Armenian forces in
Nagornyy Karabakh, Andranik Grigoryan, 24, who was doing his military
service in Karabakh, left his weapons and ammunition at his combat
position and defected to Azerbaijan. Later, the Armenian contract
soldier explained that he had done so because of the horrible situation
in Armenian army units.

"There are many people who, like me, are tired of this kind of life
and want to defect to this side. But, speaking frankly, they do
not take the risk of doing so because they do not know what awaits
them here. I want to tell, from here, to my comrades who are holding
weapons in their hands that Azerbaijanis are not the way our criminal
authorities have told us for years at all. Do as I have done, before
it is too late," Grigoryan said.

By having an attitude established over the years, Armenia and the
breakaway region of Nagorny - Karabakh unanimously described the
defector's confessions as "an orchestrated hoax". However, Grigoryan's
parents suddenly made confessions that spoiled this unanimity. They
directly said that during his army service their son had problems
and he reported them to the command of his military unit. Andranik's
mother said that during his most recent visit home he was in a bad
mood and would not answer when they asked him why. The country's
military leadership did not expect this kind of a confession, and
they dragged through investigative bodies the father of the Armenian
defector, who was upset about what happened to his son anyway.

Defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan was willing to provide any kind of
explanation regarding the actions of the Armenian soldier, except for
saying that the reason was the sorrowful state of affairs in the army:
"The reason for the actions of the Armenian soldier who defected
to Azerbaijan several days ago should be looked for in his family
circumstances." An internal investigation and criminal proceedings
have been launched regarding the defector.

Certainly, the minister's statements caused outrage, and not only in
Andranik Grigoryan's family. The parents of Armenian soldiers who
died in the army held a protest outside the Armenian Presidential
Administration. The protesters expressed concern that the minister
of defense had accused the family of soldier Andranik Grigoryan, who
had defected to Azerbaijan voluntarily. They demanded an explanation,
as to why their children had died, and that discipline be established
and the mess be eliminated in the army, and that soldiers be provided
with food and clothes.

Soon after all these developments at the front line, Azerbaijani
Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov visited the front-line zone and made
several statements there. Speaking about the situation at the front
line, he said that the enemy is in turmoil already: "We are carrying
out such strikes on them that they are frightened and are fleeing.

They do not want to serve at the front, and they flee, leaving their
trenches. The enemy now has to put civilians at the positions." He
also said that the Azerbaijani army is capable of killing 70 percent
of the enemy forces in one strike.

These kinds of statements are not made without reason. It is well
known that the "Karabakh card" has so far been the only thing allowing
the Sargsyan regime to retain power. By heightening tension at the
Karabakh front, this regime traditionally warms up the threat from
"foreign enemy" in the eyes of the population, thereby diverting the
attention of its citizens from current socio-economic problems that
promise Armenians an even bleaker future.

The assurance that now, after Armenia's accession to the Eurasian
Union, Armenians will live a better life and the country will
strengthen its positions in the region has also not rehabilitated
Sargsyan in the eyes of the increasingly more annoyed Armenian public.

Armenia was not even invited to the most recent summit of the leaders
of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, which are the members of the
Eurasian Economic Union. This clearly shows to ordinary Armenians that
the latest move by their president not only did not free the country
from foreign dependence but even made this dependence stronger, and
the future of their country in the integration association, which is
a new thing for them, will continue to be determined without their

Now that coffins from the Karabakh front have started to flow into
Armenia like a river, Sargsyan's position has become absolutely shaky.

The protest held by soldiers' mothers is just the first sign of
upcoming protests in support of toppling the president. "What is the
Armenian soldier doing in Agdam and in other Azerbaijani lands?!"

Azerbaijan's commander-in-chief Ilham Aliyev said recently, outraged.

Armenians - all those whose sons, brothers, and husbands are serving
and dying outside Armenia, in somebody else's war, in somebody else's
land - are surely asking themselves this question increasingly more
often now.

The alternative that Sargsyan has is the same - to withdraw troops
from Azerbaijani territory. Today, the Armenian president and his
retinue should give this a serious thought as never before. Latest
developments at the contact line showed that the statements by the
Azerbaijani leadership that its patience in resolving the problem of
occupation of the lands is not limitless are not just a technique that
[the Azerbaijani president's] speechwriters love. In contrast to the
Armenians, for Azerbaijanis war for Karabakh is a liberation war and
this is the best way of a motivation to lift their spirits. Also,
technical support for the army is still an important component of
victory, and the Armenian minister of defense cannot avoid knowing
this fact.

Otherwise, he would not have said recently that "Armenia is concerned
over supplies of any weapons from any country". It is hard to say that
Ohanyan is a big connoisseur of world literature, but he is for sure
well familiar with the phrase by a Russian classic, Anton Pavlovich
Chekhov: "If there is a rifle hanging on the wall, it absolutely must
go off at some point."

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