Friday, 5 August 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Leaders no longer lead!...
It’s Time for Armenia’s Leader to Go

YEREVAN, Armenia — The bloody siege of a police station in Armenia is over, with President Serzh Sargsyan’s administration prevailing against the station’s 32 fringe-party occupiers.

But the depth of public anger that surfaced in street demonstrations supporting the occupiers and in anti-government commentaries from political analysts and other thinkers indicates that most Armenians have lost faith in Sargsyan.

It’s time for him to go.

A clearly shaken Sargsyan tried to put the best face on the station occupation by addressing an assemblage of Armenian influentials, including government officials, lawmakers, educators, representatives of the arts and culture, and the clergy.

But Armenians saw through the event as a pitiful public relations ploy aimed at defusing grassroots anger.

Underscoring the widespread feeling that Sargsyan’s victory over the station occupiers was Pyrrhic was the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin has summoned him to Moscow for talks on August 10.

The last time that happened, in the fall of 2013, Putin ordered Sargsyan to drop Armenia’s plan to join the European Union — or else — and join the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union instead.

That turn-about led to anti-government demonstrations from many of the Armenians who thought their country would be better off casting its fate with Europe instead of its old subjugator Russia.

So the meeting on August 10 with Putin must be filling Sargsyan with dread.

My guess is that Putin, who despises the color revolutions that sparked regime changes in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, will tell Sargysan that while he supports him remaining in office, Sargsyan needs to be ruthless in putting down the next challenge to his authority.

Sargsyan’s speech to the Armenian influentials on August 1 vacillated between conciliatory and threatening.

His most grandiose conciliatory pronouncement was a declaration that in the months to come he would be forming a national-unity government that would include representatives of all political persuasions.

The implication was that Armenians who had once felt voiceless would now be represented in the decision-making process.

The goal, Sargsyan said, is to build on the reforms that Armenia’s new constitution has provided for.

“One thing is clear,” he said. The change that’s under way “in Armenia’s social and political life must be expedited.”

He might have been better off not mentioning the new constitution. The document ignited nationwide protests in December of 2015 because of provisions that allow Sargsyan to stay in power for many years to come.

Another attempt at conciliation in Sargsyan’s speech was his vow that Armenia would never agree to the loss of any land in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. A long-simmering conflict between ethnic-Armenian separatists and Azerbaijan flared up again in April of this year, with Azeri forces occupying some of the enclave’s land.

Still another attempt at conciliation in Sargsyan’s speech was his assertion that there would be an investigation of the station occupation, presumably both the underlying causes and how authorities had responded to it.

Armenians are angry with the excessive force that police used against the demonstrators who supported the occupiers, and against the journalists covering the protests. Authorities can’t deny the allegations because much of the excessive force was caught on video.

Sargsyan didn’t address the issue of force against the protesters. But he did apologize to the journalists who were injured after Reporters Without Borders condemned the violence. And Sargsyan said it wouldn’t happen again. Many journalists probably rolled their eyes over that.

As for the threatening side of his speech, Sargsyan said the government would never again allow a violent protest to destabilize Armenian society.

The implication was clear: If there is another attempt, it will be snuffed out immediately, with overwhelming force and likely without regard for life.

As might be expected, the threats were not well received.

Political analyst Hrant Gadarigian spoke for many in noting that after eight years of protests against Sargsyan’s rule, the president still doesn’t get it.

“Maybe Sargsyan just doesn’t care what people think of him,” Gadarigian wrote. “It could also be that he and his cronies live in a world so far removed from the trials and tribulations of the common folk that they really can’t see beyond their villas and the walls of the presidential palace.”

He was referring to Armenia being one of the former Soviet Union’s poorest countries, to millions leaving to find work elsewhere, and to the corruption that has allowed Sargsyan and other political and business elites to live sumptuously.

Given the lack of progress in the eight years that Sargsyan has ruled, and the country’s continuing turmoil, many Armenians have concluded that he must go. I am one of them.

The skeptics believe a new leadership team must be brought in through free and fair elections — people with the credentials and the resolve to fix the problems that Sargsyan has been unable or unwilling to resolve.

At this point, the president would do Armenians a tremendous favor by announcing his resignation, and laying out a succession time frame.

Armine Sahakyan is a human rights activist based in Armenia. A columnist with the Kyiv Post and a blogger with The Huffington Post, she writes on human rights and democracy in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Freedom House
Aug 2 2016
Armed Standoff in Armenia: Why It Happened 
and What It Could Mean
by Ani Karapetyan, Researcher, Freedom in the World, and
Elen Aghekyan, Research Analyst, Freedom in the World 

The two-week occupation of a police station that ended on Sunday drew unexpected public support, raising questions about the country’s future stability.

When a group of gunmen seized a police station in Yerevan on July 17 and issued antigovernment demands, they were initially met with bewilderment from the public and silence from major regime and opposition figures.

The men called for the release of political prisoners, the resignation of the president, and public protests. Silence on the part of state media and the president persisted for several days after the takeover, but the group surprisingly found support among the public. Thousands of demonstrators eventually gathered in the capital and elicited a predictably brutal response from the police.

The armed group’s drastic attempts to change the status quo in Armenia can only be understood in the context of the government’s authoritarian tendencies when it comes to independent activism, and the sense of hopelessness that they have engendered. While expressions of antigovernment sentiment have been largely peaceful in recent years, the incidents of the past two weeks signal a disturbing escalation in both the expectations of and constraints on the disenchanted Armenian public.

The gunmen 

The militants—veterans of the 1988–94 territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan—call themselves the Daredevils of Sassoun in reference to a folk epic about heroic Armenian warriors. They have ties to the so-called Founding Parliament, a small antiestablishment movement that demands the resignation of the government, which it finds corrupt and abusive.

In June, police arrested the movement’s leader, Zhirayr Sefilyan, and several others for allegedly possessing illegal weapons and plotting a coup; the detainees’ release was among the demands of the gunmen. By most accounts, although its criticisms of the regime are echoed by many opposition supporters, the Founding Parliament enjoys little public support and remains on the margins of Armenia’s political arena.

This relative obscurity underscores the significance of the protests supporting the armed militants who seized the police station. Furthermore, the men’s surrender on July 31—which they said was in the interest of preventing further bloodshed—could ultimately enhance their public support, as the militants are now in the hands of Armenia’s notoriously abusive justice system.

The context 

When Serzh Sargsyan came to power in 2008, he inherited a presidency backed by a group of entrenched oligarchs who controlled virtually every sector of the economy. He also ushered in a new, more authoritarian political atmosphere: That year’s disputed election results triggered mass protests, and a violent security response led to the deaths of 10 people as well as countless injuries and the detention of more than 100 participants. Although the country’s 2013 presidential election did not lead to similar violence, grave electoral violations and widespread complaints about corruption further disheartened the public.

In recent years, the country has witnessed an extraordinary level of civic activism through peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins, including actions against Armenia’s inclusion in the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, controversial pension reform s, increases in public transportation fares and electricity prices , and proposed constitutional changes .

None of these events featured support for violence, and few participants called for a drastic change in the system of government. The regime, however, routinely responded with a heavy police presence and, more often than not, a brutal dispersal of participants.

Coupled with their unwillingness to meaningfully address the grievances of demonstrators, the authorities’ record of violent overreaction to civic activism has caused many citizens to lose hope in the idea of accessing justice and holding their leaders accountable through lawful, democratic means. The armed occupation of the police station, a startling disruption of Armenia’s static political scene, was seen in some quarters as a last resort and, for those who took to the streets in protest, as a wake-up call.

The implications 

While the leaders of the takeover asserted that they would continue their battle behind bars, the effects of the gunmen’s actions will extend far beyond their original aims.

The government response, limited to condemning the men as terrorists and suppressing their supporters, has failed to acknowledge the uncomfortable reality that the Armenian public sympathizes with many of the complaints and criticisms at the heart of the takeover.

Before July 17, many would have considered violence to be an unlikely course of action for antigovernment forces in Armenia. The surprising public reaction to the takeover, however, has unhinged expectations about what is permissible in the realm of antigovernment mobilization.

In light of the authorities’ demonstrated commitment to meeting even peaceful activism with excessive force, this is a dangerous new reality for Armenian politics.

Analyses and recommendations offered by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of Freedom House.

Hayastan All-Armenian Fund
Yerevan, August 3, 2016 

On July 25, close to the new academic year, the 100 students of Baghanis
school, a border village in Armenia's Tavush Region, received school
consumables including rucksacks and various stationery items as gifts from
the British-Armenian community. As in previous years, the packages were
delivered to the students by the Hayastan All-Armenian Executive board
employees and Anahid Kazarians, a trustee member of the Fund's British

Kazarians commented that the aim of this social assistance project is to
bring a sense of moral support to the community. It's an approach that has
very much defined the mission of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund's British
affiliate, which, in addition to providing major support for the
construction of schools and medical centers in Armenia, continues to
implement projects that help bring joy to schoolchildren throughout the
homeland's rural communities.

In the past 12 years, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund's British affiliate has
donated packages of school consumables and stationery to a total of close to
2,400 students in Armenia's Shirak, Lori, Tavush, Vayots Dzor, Syunik, and
Aragatsotn regions.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Government Ends Energy Subsidy
August 02, 2016
Emil Danielyan

The Armenian government has stopped subsidizing the domestic retail
prices of electricity just over one year after state utility
regulators raised them and triggered dramatic street protests in

The government will now compensate only Armenians living below the
official poverty line.

The June 2015 protests dubbed "Electric Yerevan" forced the government
to keep the tariff unchanged for the vast majority of Armenian
households until August 1, 2016. The resulting subsidy has since been
equally financed by the government and Samvel Karapetian, a
Russian-Armenian billionaire.

Karapetian's Tashir Group business conglomerate purchased the
debt-ridden national power utility, Electricity Networks of Armenia
(ENA), from a state-run Russian energy giant in September 2015.

On paper, the daytime electricity price for Armenian households rose
from 42 drams to almost 49 drams (10 U.S. cents) per kilowatt/hour.

In late June, the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) cut
this nominal tariff by 2.6 drams, citing a recent decrease in the
price of Russian natural gas delivered to Armenia. The regulatory body
also argued that the new ENA owner has already managed to cut the
company's losses.

The government announced on July 29 that the subsidy will not be
extended, meaning that Armenian households will pay 46.3 drams per
kilowatt/hour from now on. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian said the
government will only cover the extra energy expenses of some 112,300
families receiving poverty benefits.

The average amount of those benefits was raised by 1,000 drams, to
31,350 drams. Abrahamian said that will be enough to fully compensate
them for the price rise. The subsidy will cost the government 561
million drams ($1.2 million) this year and 1.15 billion drams next
year, he added.

The main official rationale for last year's electricity price hike was
mounting losses incurred by ENA since 2010. The company had $220
million in outstanding debts to Armenian power plants and commercial
banks as of September 2015.

The mostly young "Electric Yerevan" protesters dismissed that
justification when they held non-stop demonstrations on one of the
Armenian capital's main streets for two weeks. They believe that the
losses primarily resulted from corruption and mismanagement.

Aug 3 2016
Knesset Committee Recognizes Armenian Genocide – An Israeli Knesset committee has announced that it
recognizes the Armenian Genocide, encouraging the Israeli government
to formally adopt the move.

“It is our moral obligation to recognize the holocaust of the Armenian
nation,” said the Education, Culture and Sports Committee chairman MK
Yaakov Margi (Shas.)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein asked in early July for the state of
Israel to recognize the 1915 genocide during World War I when 1.5
million Armenians were murdered by the Ottoman Turkish Empire in their

But as Israel is waiting to normalize relations with Turkey following
a signed agreement last month, it is not clear if and when the Israeli
government will officially recognize the Armenian genocide.

Chairwoman of the Armenian National Committee in Jerusalem, Georgette
Avakian, spoke to the Knesset about the fact that numerous parliaments
around the world and 31 countries have already recognized the

“The Knesset and the president of the state must recognize the
genocide of our nation,” she said. 

Express, UK
Aug 4 2016
One-eyed illegal immigrant cheated deportation THREE TIMES
to carry out 31 armed robberies
By Paul Jeeves

A ONE-EYED illegal immigrant avoided deportation three times before
carrying out 31 armed robberies to send £220,000 to relatives
Former Armenian karate team coach and special forces soldier Hayek
Madoyan, 43, entered the UK illegally in 2001 and claimed asylum.

Despite two convictions for shoplifting, while his application was
being considered he was given temporary leave to remain.

But in 2006 when the Home Office refused his asylum application
appeal, Madoyan hid in a London church before fleeing to Scotland.

There he used false names to rent rooms and carried out 31 armed raids
in two years on travel agents.

The money was sent to his relatives in Armenia. Madoyan fled to
Switzerland in 2008 when the police started closing in on him after
his photo was shown on Crimewatch UK.

He was extradited to the UK in 2015. His 31 robberies condensed to 16
charges after crucial evidence had been deleted by UK police.

Hayek Madoyan evaded deportation using Human Rights laws

A jury at Hull Crown Court convicted him of all charges before Judge
David Tremberg yesterday sentenced him to 16 years in jail.

Madoyan is likely to serve half that in a UK prison and should then be
sent back to Armenia. But he is likely to claim his life would be in
danger and try to evade deportation using Human Rights laws.

Mr Justice Tremberg said: “You targeted bureaux de changes in small
travel agencies where you expected rich pickings and a level of
security which was much less than banks and building societies.”

Hayek Madoyan,43, pictured robbing Co-op Travel in Worcester 19 June 2006

The court heard he travelled from his base in Scotland to raid travel
agencies as far as Weymouth, Newport and Southampton. He pointed a
pistol at female staff.

Madoyan lost an eye fighting in Armenia and his droopy eye was
remembered by the cashiers.

Ian Mullarkey, prosecuting, said two of his victims were pregnant.

Some were unable to return to work because of their terror.

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