Saturday, 19 November 2016

Armenian News.... A Topalian... Mortar Fire in Nagorno-Karabakh

RFE/RL Report
Mortar Fire Reported In Karabakh
November 11, 2016
Arus Hakobian
Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenian-backed military accused Azerbaijani forces
on Friday of using mortars to intensify ceasefire violations along the
"line of contact" around Karabakh.

"Starting from 12:15, the enemy is firing from 60- and 82-milimeter
mortars at the [Karabakh] Defense Army's positions at northeastern
sections of the frontline," the army said in a statement issued early
in the afternoon. It claimed that the Azerbaijani side also resorted
to "provocative actions" overnight.

"In order to suppress the enemy's offensive activity, frontline troops
of the Defense Army are taking retaliatory actions," added the

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to these
claims. It said earlier in the day that Armenian forces used mortars
to shell its troops stationed along Azerbaijan's border with Armenia
and the Karabakh "line of contact."

Neither side reported casualties.

The Azerbaijani mortar fire was reported near Talish, a war-ravaged
village in Karabakh's north. The village mayor, Vilen Petrosian, also
said that nearby Karabakh Armenian positions are being shelled.

"Gunshots are continuing right now, but they are not reaching our
village," Petrosian told RFE/RL's Armenian service. "They are mainly
shooting at army positions near Talish."

The mountainous area was one of the epicenters of unusually heavy
fighting in and around Karabakh that broke out in early April. The
Azerbaijani army heavily shelled Talish and partly or fully destroyed
many village houses when it went on offensive at the time.

The several hundred residents of Talish fled their homes as a
result. The vast majority of them are still too scared to return.

At least 180 Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers were killed before the
four-day hostilities were halted by a Russian-brokered
agreement. Truce violations on the Karabakh frontlines decreased
significantly after April as the international community scrambled to
de-escalate the Karabakh conflict.

In recent weeks, the Karabakh leadership has accused Baku of
increasingly breaching the ceasefire regime. Still, a team of U.S.,
Russian and French mediators said that "the situation on the ground
remains relatively calm" after visiting the conflict zone late last
month. They also stressed that "respect for the ceasefire provides a
critical foundation for ongoing negotiations" between the warring

The latest escalation alleged by the Armenian side comes on the eve of
large-scale military exercises planned by Azerbaijan. The exercises
will reportedly involve tens of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of
tanks, artillery systems, helicopters and warplanes. 

[the Azeri perception of their military might seems dangerously 
to have gone up]

Vestnik Kavkaza
Ilham Aliyev: "April battles should go into military textbooks"
Nov 14 2016
Yesterday at a meeting with students of the military schools of Azerbaijan's Fizuli region, President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan will put an end to the occupation of its territories, there is every reason for this: Azerbaijan's army is among the strongest armies in the world, its logistics is at the highest level, the combat capability is increasing, as well as professionalism.

In 1994, the Azerbaijani army, carrying out a successful military operation, liberated these territories and other territories of the Fuzuli region from occupation. Now houses and entire villages are being built in these territories. Ilham Aliyev recalled another historic victory of Azerbaijan's army in this year: "In April, Armenia committed another armed provocation against our country and our people. Azerbaijan's heroic army - soldiers and officers of our nation - gave an adequate response to this provocation. By conducting a successful counterattack operation, the Azerbaijani army inflicted a crushing blow to the enemy and liberated a part of the Azerbaijani lands from the occupation. The operation to liberate Lele Tepe hill in the Fizuli region from occupation is our glorious history. Today, we are able to destroy any enemy object. The April battles demonstrated the power of our army once again."

During the meeting with servicemen who distinguished themselves in battles, Aliyev recalled: "A few months ago, this territory was under occupation. A successful counterattack operation resulted in liberation of more than 2000 hectares of land that were under occupation in the Fuzuli, Jabrayil and Aghdere regions. Today, the Azerbaijani army fully controls thousands of hectares of land. The April battles should go into military textbooks".

The President said that in April he met with wounded soldiers and officers at the military hospital and saw their enthusiasm. They had an only desire – to recover quickly and return to the battle zones.

"Armenia has invented lies and myths about its army for many years. Allegedly, they have an invincible army. The April battles showed which army is invincible. There is no such a military target in the occupied territories and Nagorno-Karabakh that can’t be destroyed by Azerbaijan’s army," the President said. 
In recent years, Azerbaijan has purchased modern weapons, military equipment worth billions of dollars, which was created on the basis of latest technologies. According to Ilham Aliyev, along with combat capability, and high patriotic spirit of the Azerbaijani army. "We are on our lands, it is Azerbaijan. Leletepe, Shusha, Khankendi are also Azerbaijan. We are on our land. We have no claims for others’ territories. But will never allow the creation of a second Armenian state on our lands. If the Armenian armed forces did not draw a right conclusion from the April battles, there will be many successful operations as the Leletepe operation in the future. The leadership of Armenia must finally realize that their aggressive actions are leading them to the abyss," Ilham Aliyev said.

RFE/RL Report
Migrant Remittances To Armenia Keep Falling
November 11, 2016
Sargis Harutyunyan

Multimillion-dollar remittances from Armenians working abroad -- and
in Russia in particular -- have continued to fall significantly this
year, dragging down economic growth in Armenia.

According to the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA), they totaled about
$1.1 billion in January-September, a year-on-year decrease of almost
11 percent.

The drop was even sharper last year, with remittances falling to $1.63
million from $2.12 billion in 2014 amid a recession in Russia, the
main source of these vital cash inflows. Armenia's entire Gross
Domestic Product was worth less than $11 billion in 2015.

Russia accounted for over 60 percent of the remittances in the first
nine months of 2016. Their shrinking amount seems to explain why
retail sales in the country were down by 3.4 percent in the same
period, according to official statistics.

That contrasted with a 20 percent rise in Armenian exports registered
by the National Statistical Service (NSS) in January-September
2016. The NSS put their total volume at $1.3 billion. Exports to
Russia soared by as much as 55 percent to $260 million.

The Armenian economy is projected to grow by between 2 and 3 percent
this year. Finance Minister Vartan Aramian acknowledged last month
that for a country like Armenia such a growth rate is too modest to
have a major impact on living standards.

Armenia's recently reshuffled government expects growth to accelerate
to 3.2 percent in 2017. Prime Minister Karen Karapetian said recently
that an unfavorable external economic environment and "economic
passivity" resulting from next year's Armenian parliamentary elections
could put this target at risk. "We will do everything to ensure that
rate," he told parliament.

But Vahagn Khachatrian, an economist and senior member of the
opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), questioned the growth
target set by the government, pointing to the falling remittances. He
also offered a grim outlook for the economic situation in Russia and
international prices of non-ferrous metals, a key Armenian export

In its latest World Economic Outlook released in October, the
International Monetary Fund said the Russian economy is expected to
return to growth next year. It forecast a 2017 growth rate of 1
percent for Russia and 3.4 percent for Armenia.

The Russian economy contracted by 3.7 percent in 2015 due to falling
oil prices and international sanctions that limited Russia's access to
international financial markets. The IMF expects it to shrink by
around 1 percent this year.
Lucky punter turns 25p into £205,000 – thanks to Armenia’s 
dramatic winner against Montenegro
15 Nov 2016 

Ireland-based bookmaking giants Paddy Power have been forced to pay out at what is believed to be the highest price for a winning betting slip after Armenia’s win victory over Montenegro in a 2018 World Cup qualifier.

One lucky Coventry punter defied all odds to land an incredible 820,728/1 11-fold accumulator after placing a 25p bet at a city betting shop, the Coventry Observer reports.

It was Gevorg Ghazaryan’s goal just seconds before the final whistle was due to be blown in Armenia’s Group E World Cup Qualifying game against Montenegro which landed the shock accumulator.

As a result, Ireland-based bookmaking giants Paddy Power have been forced to pay out at what is believed to be the highest price for a winning betting slip – and losing them £250,000.

Placed on Friday, the bet looked to be off as four of the eleven teams he selected were behind at one stage during their game – these being France, Plymouth, Cambridge United and Port Vale.

Incredibly, Port Vale netted a winner against Fleetwood Town in the 86th minute and the Czech Republic then scored a third goal for Czech Republic with just three minutes of time left.

However those results came nothing close to the shock that Armenia caused against Montenegro.

With a population of less than three million, the underdogs found themselves 2-0 down at half time – meaning Armenia had to score at least three times in 45 minutes for the bet to be landed.

Five minutes after half-time Varazdat Haroyan pulled one back, but Armenia only struck the equaliser after 74 minutes.

The clock ticked past 90 minutes, however with just seconds left in the game hero of the hour Ghazaryan scored – netting the city punter a massive £250,000.

A Paddy Power spokesman said the £250k win is one of the biggest on record from such a small stake.

They added: “We already took a beating after Donald Trump was elected as US president, and this Coventry lad has rubbed salt into our wounds by landing this miracle punt.

“I’ve no idea where Armenia is but hopefully this lucky fella will spend some of his winnings on a flight to thank them in person.” 

The Mirror, UK
 Borussia Dortmund eager to end Henrikh Mkhitaryan's Manchester United
hell with January loan move
November 12, 2016
By Steve Bates

The Armenian has made no impact at United since arriving in a £26.9m
deal and Dortmund boss Tomas Tuchel has told club bosses he is keen on
taking him back

Borussia Dortmund want to rescue Henrikh Mkhitaryan from his
Manchester United hell and take him back to Germany in January, writes
Steve Bates in the Sunday People.

Dortmund's highly-regarded coach Tomas Tuchel as well as club bosses
CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and General manager Michael Zorc have all been
shocked at Mkhitaryan's free-fall at Old Trafford.

They are astounded at Mkhitaryan's failure to make any kind of impact
under United boss Jose Mourinho - especially as the Armenian
play-maker was one of the Bundesliga's top stars before he left
Dortmund in a £26.9 deal last summer.

Tuchel has told Watzke and Zorc he would be happy to take 27 year-old
Mkhitaryan back in January if Dortmund can strike a loan-deal with

Mkhitaryan was expected to deliver the same creative flair at Old
Trafford having been king of the assists during his time at Dortmund
after moving from Shaktar Donetsk in 2013.

The Armenian star scored 33 goals in 114 games for Dortmund but so far
he's made just 6 appearances for United, some from the bench, and
failed to convince Mourinho to give him a run in the side ahead of
Wayne Rooney or Juan Mata.

Mkhitaryan's Old Trafford career stalled after he picked up a thigh
injury in the 2-1 defeat by Manchester City on September 10 and was
out for seven weeks b efore making a late substitute appearance
against Fenerbahce in Istanbul recently.

But he was again left out of the United side which won at Swansea
before the international break and that's alerted Dortmund who are
planning to contact Old Trafford ahead of the January window opening
to determine whether Mourinho will let him return to Germany for the
rest of the season.

The move would be familiar territory for the two clubs with Dortmund
buying back Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa in 2014 after two
lukewarm seasons at United following his £12 million transfer in 2012.

But at least Mkhitaryan has something to smile about after skippering
his country to their first 2018 World Cup qualifying win of the

Armenia staged a remarkable comeback against Montenegro winning 3-2
after being 2-0 down to record their first win in 12 competitive games
stretching back to 2013.

Chicago Tribune
Kamikaze drones, Russian missiles jolt oldest ex-Soviet feud 
Nov 14 2016 
Zulfugar Agayev,

Old grievances are being aired with new force in the former Soviet Union's longest-running conflict.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, technically at war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region despite a cease-fire brokered by Russia 22 years ago, are beefing up their arsenals just seven months after the worst fighting in two decades. Armenia has acquired Russian-made Iskander ballistic missiles, while Azerbaijan says it's tested combat drones produced with Israel and is in talks with Pakistan to buy high-tech weapons.

"We have a much more serious arms race," said Zaur Shiriyev, an academy associate at Chatham House in London. "It will significantly increase the chance of future outbreaks."

The rearmament is raising the stakes should tensions flare again between Russian ally Armenia and Azerbaijan, close to NATO member Turkey, after the two neighbors spent almost $27 billion on defense in 2005-2015. The conflict, within striking distance of a BP Plc-led oil pipeline, is once more showing signs of boiling over as talks mediated by Russia and the U.S. run aground and uncertainty mounts after Donald Trump's election as American president.

Armenians took over Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts from Azerbaijan after the 1991 Soviet breakup. The conflict killed 30,000 people and displaced more than a million. No peace accord was signed despite talks involving Russia, the U.S. and France halting major hostilities in 1994.

The enclave's mainly Armenian population declared independence in 1991, which hasn't been recognized internationally, and insists on its right to self-determination. Azerbaijan says it's ready to grant more autonomy than the region enjoyed during the Soviet period, but demands respect for its territorial integrity.

Azerbaijan, the third-largest crude producer in the former Soviet Union, has converted its oil wealth into battlefield might, becoming Europe's largest importer of major weapons in the decade through 2015 by spending $22.7 billion on the military in the period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Its annual defense spending eclipses Armenia's entire state budget.

The largess has been a boon for companies like Uralvagonzavod, the state-run maker of battle tanks in central Russia since World War II, and Elbit Systems, Israel's biggest publicly traded defense contractor.

Violence surged in April, when more than 200 troops were killed on both sides in four days of fighting that involved hundreds of tanks and aircraft. Azerbaijan regained control of several hills lost to Armenians 23 years ago, before another Russian-engineered truce. New cease-fire violations were reported last week, which the belligerents blamed on each other.

April's clashes featured the first known use of "kamikaze drones" by Azerbaijan, with the explosive-tipped aircraft slamming into a bus carrying Armenian volunteers. Media including Radio Free Europe claimed to have identified the weapons as Israeli-made Harop drones. The Azeri and Israeli defense ministries both declined to confirm or deny that Harops were used.

Azerbaijan said in September that it would build "hundreds" of kamikaze and other combat drones using Israeli technology. Speaking on Saturday while visiting Azeri troops stationed southeast of Nagorno-Karabakh at one of the hills recaptured in April, President Ilham Aliyev said his country has already purchased modern weapons worth billions and intends to buy more. Aliyev called on Armenia to "draw lessons" from the last bout of fighting and vowed to recapture control of the breakaway region.

Armenia has also bolstered its capabilities, getting a $200 million loan from Russia to buy and modernize weapons and other military equipment. In a document dated Nov. 12, President Vladimir Putin approved an agreement on creating a joint military force with Armenia and instructed officials to complete the remaining negotiations. The group, which plans to operate in the Caucasus region, will be responsible for defending the borders of Russia and Armenia and rebuffing an attack on either party.

Armenia showcased its Iskander missiles at an Independence Day parade in September in Yerevan, the capital. Stationing the short-range rockets in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan's BP-operated Sangachal oil-and-gas-processing terminal south of Baku would fall within firing range. Azerbaijan has attracted more than $60 billion of investments in energy projects by BP and its partners in the past 20 years.

A spokesman for Russia's state-run arms trader Rosoboronexport, Vyacheslav Davidenko, declined to comment on any weapons provided to Armenia.

Russia has stressed that is also sells military hardware to Azerbaijan. It supplied the missiles through the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Soviet military alliance, according to the Vedomosti business newspaper.

"Armenia sought to use this display to deter Azerbaijan from a further attack and to demonstrate a solid position in the recently shifting military balance of power," said Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan. "This missile system is capable of reaching significant infrastructure and vulnerable targets in around Baku and throughout Azerbaijan. This is why the balance of power is now more equal."

Azerbaijan rejects any shift in the military balance, and Armenia's missile display certainly hasn't eased tensions. The Azeri Defense Ministry responded by holding drills involving Russian-made S-300 air-defense systems and threatened to retaliate with "thousands of rockets" should Armenia try to use "a few" of its missiles. Deadly clashes around the conflict zone resumed last month, while Azerbaijan began some of its biggest-ever military drills on Nov. 12.

The military one-upmanship has complicated mediation. Talks over a settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh are deadlocked, according to Russia, which helped arrange a June meeting between the Azeri and Armenian presidents. U.S., Russian and French diplomats failed to persuade them to meet again soon.

Meanwhile, the possible cost of any renewed violence is rising.

"Russia's delivery of Iskander missiles and other heavy weapons systems to Armenia" has the potential to "raise the costs to both sides of a potential future armed conflict," said Matthew Bryza, an ex-U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state who also served as an ambassador to Azerbaijan and brokered talks over Karabakh.

Bloomberg contributors: Sara Khojoyan, David Wainer, Ilya Arkhipov and Stepan Kravchenko.

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