Thursday, 9 March 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Babajanyan Killed as Planned

Lusine Kocharyan "Armenian folk song" - blind Audition
6 March 2017
Serviceman Nver Babajanyan Killed on Same Day as Planned 

OSCE Monitoring Mission on the Line of Contact
1 March 2017 

Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) Defense Army serviceman Nver Babajanyan (b. 1980) was killed around 4:50 p.m. on March 1, after being hit by shrapnel during Azerbaijani shelling on Armenian positions in the southeast Martuni direction of the Artsakh Line of Contact (LoC).

Beginning at 11:25 a.m., the Azerbaijani forces violated the ceasefire several times as they fired 10 shells at Armenian positions using 60mm and 82mm mortars, SPG-9 recoilless guns, and GP-25 grenade launchers, the Artsakh Defense Ministry reported.

According to the press statement released by the Defense Ministry, an investigation has been launched into Babajanyan’s death.

Earlier on March 1, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission conducted a planned monitoring of the LoC in the direction of the Askeran region, near the settlement of Shyklyar, Artsakh Foreign Ministry reported.

From the position of the Artsakh Defense Army, the monitoring was conducted by Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk and his field assistants Ghenadie Petrica (Moldova) and Khristo Khristov (Bulgaria).

On the Azerbaiajni side of the LoC, the monitoring was conducted by field assistant to the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Jiri Aberle (Czech Republic), staff member of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Peter Svedberg (Sweden), and Personal Assistant to the CiO Personal Representative Simon Tiller (Great Britain).

The monitoring passed in accordance with the agreed schedule and no ceasefire violations were registered. However, the Azerbaijani side did not lead the OSCE mission to its frontline positions, according to a statement by the Artsakh Foreign Ministry.

The monitoring mission from the Artsakh side was accompanied by representatives of Artsakh’s Defense and Foreign Ministries.
Armenian-British military cooperation new plan is signed
March 6, 2017 

Armenian Ministry of Defense hosted today the annual Armenian-British military-political consultations, co-chaired by Head of the Defense Policy Department of the Defense Ministry Levon Ayvazyan and Director of International Security Policy in the UK Nick Gurr.

Armenian MoD noted that UK Ambassador to Armenia Judith Farnworth also took part in the consultations.

Results of 2016-2017 Armenian-British Professional Cooperation Plan in defense sector were summed up, while the full implementation of the annual cooperation plan was registered.

Implementation of programs in a number of sectors of mutual interest was discussed within the frames of 2017-2018 cooperation: military education, trainings, as well as military readiness of junior commanders and peacekeeping instructors etc.

2017-2018 Professional Cooperation Plan was signed between Armenian Ministry of Defense and UK Ministry of Defense. 
US. Department of State releases its 2016 human right report on Armenia
March 6.

Law enforcement impunity in Armenia; officials’ use of government resources to maintain the political dominance of the ruling RPA combined with the use of economic and political power by the country’s elite to enrich supporters and corrupt the law enforcement and judicial systems; and limited judicial independence are pointed out in the report placed on the official website of the U.S. Department of State as most significant human rights problems in Armenia during the year.

The report also contains remarks over the July protests in Yerevan.

From July 17 to July 30 and subsequently, while the Sasna Tsrer group held hostage the Patrol-Guard Service Regiment of the Erebuni Police in Yerevan, persons sympathetic to the group or their political demands held numerous demonstrations.

Protesters mainly gathered on Freedom Square or on Khorenatsi Street and staged marches in the streets of Yerevan. Police interfered with the marches, used force, and arbitrarily detained hundreds of individuals participating in the protests, subjecting many to violence, often asserting that the gatherings lacked a permit.

There is an allusion in the report to the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, whihc stated that the events between July 17 and August 5 “were accompanied by brutal interventions and unprecedented violations committed by police.”

The analysts of the U.S. Department of State also referred to Brussels-based NGO International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) within the framework of Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), an international coalition of human rights NGOs, conducted a fact-finding mission to the country from July 28 to August 1 and described the demonstrations as largely peaceful. CSP monitors also observed the efforts by demonstration leaders to restrain the public from acts of violence. According to the CSP, police use of rocket-projected or hand-held stun grenades on July 29 was disproportionate, excessive, and indiscriminate and employed without advance warning.

The report cited significant police interference in 29 cases, including arrests, violence, and forcible removal of participants from one venue to another. The report also questioned the arbitrary interpretation by police of freedom of assembly laws as well as police methods, such as giving orders or instructions to participants without an accompanying justification or reason and then charging them with resisting a “lawful demand” when they did not comply.

«According to official sources, as of November 25, SIS had not charged anyone or identified any suspects in connection with the charges of abuse of official authority related to the alleged abuses by law enforcement officers during the July protests,» the report says.

Suspicious deaths in the military under noncombat conditions; bullying and mistreatment of conscripts by officers and fellow soldiers; allegations of abusive police behavior during arrest and interrogation; and harsh and overcrowded prison conditions were singled out in the report as well.

Analysts at the U.S. Department of State also noticed that print and broadcast media lacked diversity of political opinion, and most television outlets reflected government views. «Self-censorship was a problem. Police reportedly targeted journalists at citizens’ protests,» they said in their report.

«The politicization of both academic institutions and student activities inhibited academic freedom. Respect for freedom of assembly worsened. Authorities restricted freedom to participate in the political process and political pluralism. Government restrictions affected some minority religious groups, and members of religious minorities suffered from societal discrimination. 
Seven border villages lit up with LED technology in Armenia and Artsakh 
7 Mar 2017 
Seven border villages of Armenia and Artsakh have been lit up with LED technology at the “Bright Border” initiative. As the organization reports in a release, the initiative aims to sooth the burden of electricity charges and showcase the possibilities of affordable electricity to the public through installing free of charge LED technology.

RA Minister of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources Hayk Harutyunyan spoke to reporters on Tuesday, saying he has installed LED bulbs himself in his house and has seen a 30-40 percent decline in electricity consumption.

“In border villages, the energy saving is even more noticeable, considering the electrical devices are not that many there to compare with urban settlements,” the minister noted, reminding of the pilot program that was adopted by the government in 2015.

The initiative has launched in November 2016 and by means of crowd funding the organizers have collected donations worth 21 billion AMD, purchasing and installing in total 8000 LED bulbs in around 2000 households of the border villages, with families saving up to 4000 AMD electricity monthly.

The minister noted "Electric Networks of Armenia" CJSC acted as the first donator, followed by the Government of Armenia, energy companies, NGOs, international structures as well as numerous individuals.

In his words, once in a two week one village is being lit up, according to the plan

“Our primary aim is to light up villages of the all 36 border communities of Armenia and Artsakh through installing LED technology. It is hard to set a certain deadline for the completion of the initiative since the works heavily depend on donation,” the minister noted, adding the pace will be kept up given also the ongoing decline in the prices of the LED bulbs.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Parliamentary Election Campaign Starts
March 06, 2017
 . Ruzanna Stepanian
 . Tatevik Lazarian
 . Sargis Harutyunyan
 . Nane Sahakian
 . Astghik Bedevian

Campaigning for Armenia's upcoming parliamentary elections officially
began at the weekend, with President Serzh Sarkisian expressing
confidence that his Republican Party (HHK) will win them and remain in

A total of five political parties and four alliances are vying for at
least 101 seats in the new Armenian parliament that will be elected on
April 2 under a complex system of proportional representation. The
parties and the blocs will have to win at least 5 percent and 7
percent of the vote respectively in order to be represented in the
next National Assembly.

The elections will be held one year before Sarkisian serves out his
second and final presidential term and Armenia completes its
transition to the parliamentary system of government. They will
therefore decide who will govern the country for the next four years.

Virtually all of the nine election contenders launched their campaigns
on Saturday with indoor presentations of their manifestos that
involved speeches by their leaders. The HHK, widely seen as the
election favorite thanks to its government levers and financial
resources, rallied several hundred members at a sports arena in

Strangely enough, journalists were not allowed to cover the
event. They had to content themselves with the transcripts of speeches
delivered by Sarkisian and other party figures.

"With all due respect for our political opponents, we, the
Republicans, believe that we will win," declared Sarkisian. "We will
win because we believe in the country's future and the great potential
of our people."

"Rest assured that we will become the most efficient and rapidly
developing country in the region," the president said. He also said he
expects his recently reshuffled cabinet headed by Prime Minister Karen
Karapetian to ensure such "progress."

Karapetian reaffirmed his pledges to implement wide-ranging
reforms. "We are confident that those changes will be visible and
their results tangible," he told the party faithful.

Sarkisian made clear late last year that Karapetian will continue to
serve as prime minister at least until April 2018 if the HHK wins the
general elections. But he has still not clarified whether he plans to
be become prime minister after the end of his presidency.

Sarkisian's junior coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), also stressed the need for major
"changes" in the country as it launched its separate election
campaign. "While others are speaking of changes, we are actually
effecting changes," claimed one of its leaders, Aghvan Vartanian.

Dashnaktsutyun is represented in the Armenian government by three
ministers in accordance with a power-sharing deal reached with
Sarkisian a year ago.It had already been part of the government from
2008-2009 along with two other parties: Gagik Tsarukian' Prosperous
Armenia (BHK) and Artur Baghdasarian's Armenian Renaissance. Both
parties now claim to be in opposition to the government, something
which is disputed by some observers as well as more established
opposition figures.

One of the HHK's most vocal election challengers is an alliance that
was set up recently by former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and
former Foreign Ministers Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovannisian. The
bloc called Ohanian-Raffi-Oskanian held its first campaign rally at a
Yerevan cinema.

"We need to tell the people to stop coming to terms with this reality
and to stop tolerating injustice and impunity in our country," said
Ohanian, who was sacked in October after holding a key position in the
Sarkisian administration for more than eight years.

In its campaign platform, Ohanian's bloc promises, among other things,
to increase defense spending by 50 billion drams ($103 million). The
figure is equivalent to more than one-fifth of Armenia's military

Also challenging the HHK's hold on power is the pro-European Yelk (Way
Out) alliance comprising Nikol Pashinian's Civil Contract and two
other parties. The bloc opposes Armenia's membership in the
Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and has vowed to seek an
Association Agreement with the European Union in case of coming to

"The latest political news in Armenia is that there is a way out of
this situation," Pashinian said at the official launch of Yelk's
campaign on Saturday.

Pashinian and another Yelk leader, Aram Sarkisian, walked through
downtown Yerevan together with a dozen young activists earlier in the
day, handing out campaign booklets to passersby.

Another major opposition contender is the alliance of former President
Levon Ter-Petrosian's Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Stepan
Demirchian's People's Party of Armenia (HZhK). The central theme of
its campaign is peace with Azerbaijan and Turkey. In an extensive
December speech, Ter-Petrosian reaffirmed his belief that a compromise
solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is vital for Armenia's
security and prosperity.

"We need to normalize relations with Azerbaijan and resolve the
Karabakh conflict," Levon Zurabian, Ter-Petrosian's right-hand man,
said at the official presentation of the Congress-HZhK alliance's
election manifesto. Zurabian said the alliance specifically supports
the so-called Madrid Principles of a Karabakh settlement that were
first put forward by U.S., Russian and French mediators in 2007.

The proposed framework accord calls for a phased settlement that would
start with Armenian withdrawal from virtually all districts around
Karabakh and end with a referendum in which Karabakh's predominantly
Armenian population would determine the disputed territory's
internationally recognized status.

RFE/RL Report
Kocharian Sees Vote Buying Contest
March 06, 2017
Ruzanna Stepanian
Former President Robert Kocharian painted a grim picture of the
Armenian parliamentary race on Monday, saying that its outcome is
likely to be decided by vote buying.

He also avoided endorsing any of the five parties and four blocs
running in the general elections scheduled for April 2.

In a fresh broadside at Armenia's current leadership, Kocharian
deplored a new and complex system of proportional representation that
will be used in the upcoming polls. It will involve votes for not only
parties or blocs but also their individual candidates nominated in a
dozen electoral districts across the country.

Kocharian claimed that the individual races will be more important
that than the contest among political groups running for
parliament. "Thus, ideological struggle will play no role in these
elections," he said in written comments posted on his unofficial

"It is evident that there will be a contest of wallets in an
atmosphere of thuggishness," charged the man who governed Armenia from
1998-2008. "Especially given the fact that many voters have found
themselves in such a socioeconomic situation that in all likelihood
they are not prepared to refuse money and will probably take part in
the vote auction."

The claim seemed primarily addressed to President Serzh Sarkisian's
Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that has long been accused by the
opposition of handing out bribes. Kocharian also faced opposition
allegations of vote buying throughout his decade-long rule.

The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, disagreed with Kocharian's
negative assessment of the electoral system. Sharmazanov argued that
Armenia's new Electoral Code was enacted last fall as a result of a
landmark agreement reached by the government and the parliamentary
opposition. "We expect a solely ideological electoral struggle," he
told RFE/RL's Armenian service (

Kocharian has regularly criticized the Sarkisian administration in
recent years. He reiterated on Monday that Armenia's current
transition to a parliamentary system of government initiated by his
successor was a "big mistake" that will have "long-term negative
consequences" for the country.

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