Sunday, 30 July 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Investors to finance projects

RFE/RL Report
Russian-Armenian Investors Said To Finance First Projects In Armenia
July 18, 2017
Anush Muradian
An investment fund set up recently by three dozen wealthy Russian
entrepreneurs of Armenian descent will start financing business
projects in Armenia this autumn, a senior government official in
Yerevan said on Tuesday.

The fund called the Investors Club of Armenia (ICA) was officially set
up in March at a ceremony in Yerevan attended by Prime Minister Karen
Karapetian. The latter has warm rapports with its key founders,
notably the Armenian-born billionaire Samvel Karapetian (no relation).

The Armenian government signed a memorandum of understanding with the
ICA in April. Minister for Economic Development Suren Karayan said at
the time that the fund's investments in the Armenian economy should
total around $300 million this year.

According to one of Karayan's deputies, Hovannes Azizian, the ICO will
likely launch its first investment projects in October or
November. "The projects to be implemented by the Club will mainly
target the areas of energy and renewable energy," he told a news
conference. "Now discussions are underway on the possibility of the
Club's involvement in some manufacturing sectors as well."

Azizian said that the Russian-Armenian investors are particularly
interested in hydropower and solar energy. The government, he said,
expects them to finance, among other things, the construction of
medium-sized hydroelectric plants.

One of those plants would be built in Samvel Karapetian's native Lori
province. The Armenian Energy Ministry estimates that work on the
76-megawatt facility would cost roughly $150 million.

Azizian would not be drawn on the amount of funding which the ICA has
set aside for its first projects. "When the projects are finalized we
will give information about the investment package," he said.

Foreign direct investment in the Armenian economy has rapidly declined
in recent years. Government data shows that it stood at a modest $130
million in 2016.

Prime Minister Karapetian has repeatedly promised to attract more than
$3 billion in investments in the coming years since he was appointed
as prime minister in September. The former business executive, who
lived and worked in Russia from 2011-2016, has said that at least $830
million of the sum will be invested in 2017.

The Russian-Armenian businessmen voiced strong support for the
53-year-old premier's ambitious reform agenda when he paid an official
visit to Moscow in January. Samvel Karapetian reaffirmed that backing
at the official launch of the ICA in March.

In addition to his extensive business interests in Russia, the tycoon
owns Armenia's national electric utility, largest thermal power plant,
and a shopping mall in Yerevan. His Tashir Group is due to open
another sprawling trade center in the Armenian capital in September.

According to "Forbes" magazine estimates, Samvel Karapetian's personal
fortune is currently worth $3.5billion, meaning that he is most
probably the richest ethnic Armenian in the world. 

PanArmenian, Armenia
July 25 2017
Armenia building its own spacecraft 

The Federation Council of Russia has ratified an agreement between the governments of Russia and Armenia on cooperation in the field of research and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, reports.

This agreement plays an important role for Armenia since the country has already begun developing a spacecraft .

The Armenian artificial satellite must be installed in the orbital position 71.4E of geostationary communications.

Armenia will thus come to possess its own communication satellite in space which will help further build the country's security and develop communication technologies.

Language Magazine
July 24 2017
Armenia Refuses Russian 

Despite Russian leaders’ suggestions, Armenian politicians hold firm on opposition to Russian becoming an official language of Armenia. In July, Vyachaslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s State Duma suggested to Armenia that they grant Russian official status as an Armenian language. The suggestion is supposedly in hopes of clearing up a problem with Armenian driver licenses deemed invalid in Russia.

Armen Ashotyan, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs at National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia told the press that the Armenian language-policy hasn’t and won’t change. He went on to state that the refusal to accept Russian as an official language was purely constitutional, saying “There is no similar issue in Armenia even under the Council of Europe’s Language Charter. There are no legal and political reasons to comment on this issue from this perspective as well. The issue over an official, constitutional status is out of the question.”

While Armenia will remain the only official language of Armenia, Russian is still in the lead as the most common foreign language spoken in Armenia, with a 2010 Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs report stating that about 70% of Armenia’s population has the ability to speak Russian. The population also views speaking Russian as important, as according to the Gallup Organization’s poll, 75% of Armenians in 2007 said tha they think it is very important for children in the country to learn Russian. 

RFE/RL Report 
Armenians Seek War Crimes Rulings Against Azerbaijan
July 25, 2017
Naira Bulghadarian

Hundreds of Armenians have filed government-backed lawsuits in the
European Court of Human Rights accusing Azerbaijan of beheading
Armenian soldiers and committing other atrocities during last year's
heavy fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Ara Ghazarian, an Armenian legal expert involved in the unprecedented
legal action, said on Tuesday that the Strasbourg-based court has
already requested official information from Baku on over 20 of the 359
lawsuits filed from Armenia and Karabakh.

"We expect a just compensation," Ghazarian told a joint news
conference with Armenia's and Karabakh's human rights ombudsmen. "It
could be both a recognition of the violations [of the European
Convention on Human Rights] and subsequent compensation for material
and moral damages. But first and foremost, we must ensure that the
European Court recognizes that there were violations."

The war crimes alleged by the plaintiffs stem from the April 2016
hostilities in and around Karabakh which left least 180 soldiers from
both warring sides dead. The authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan
say that three Armenian soldiers were beheaded by Azerbaijani troops
at the time. They claim that one of them, the 31-year-old Major Hayk
Toroyan, was still alive when his Azerbaijani captors began cutting
off his head.

The headless body of another soldier, Kyaram Sloyan, was handed over
to his family and buried on April 4, 2016, two days after the
Azerbaijani army launched an offensive at two sections of the Karabakh
"line of contact." The family living in a village in central Armenia
received the 19-year-old's severed head later on.

According to Karabakh prosecutors, 15 other Armenian soldiers had
their ears cut off after being killed by Azerbaijani forces.

Azerbaijan's government and military have denied the allegations. They
claimed that the Armenians themselves mutilated the bodies of
Azerbaijani soldiers killed in what was the worst fighting in the
Karabakh conflict zone since 1994.

Another Armenian lawsuit filed in Strasbourg stems from the violent
deaths of three elderly members of a family in Talish, a village in
northern Karabakh that was devastated by Azerbaijani shelling in April
2016. They were reportedly murdered by Azerbaijani commandos that
burst into their home located on the outskirts of Talish.

Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
July 24, 2017 Monday
Primate of Shirak Diocese among candidates for Armenian 
Patriarch of Istanbul
Armenuhi Mkhoyan
The Armenian patriarchal elections of Istanbul will be held in 
December, 2017, and there are already 8-9
candidates: Garegin Bekchyan, Aram Ateshyan, Sahak Mashalyan, Sepuh
Chuljyan, Khajak Parsamyan, Sevan Gharibyan, Navasard Kchoyan.

Primate of Shirak Diocese Bishop Mikayel Ajapahyan is also among the
likely candidates for the upcoming patriarchal elections, patriarchal
locum tenens Archbishop Garegin Bekchyan said while in Armenia.

“Any bishop can be a candidate for any seat. In case of Turkey, the
circle of those candidates is somewhat narrow since you need to have
roots there, either you or your father should have been born there. In
my case, my father was born there. There is a list of candidates, and
all from this list can be elected. It’s not that if we are candidates,
we will definitely be elected. At the moment there are 9 candidates,
one from them will be elected”, Bishop Mikayel Ajapahyan told

Commenting on the difficulties of the Istanbul’s Armenian
Patriarchate, the Bishop said there are difficulties. “It’s not easy
anywhere, there are difficulties, but if I am elected, I will serve”,
he added.

RFE/RL Report 
Opposition Gunmen's Trial Still In Turmoil
July 19, 2017
Naira Bulghadarian

The trial of the key members of an armed opposition that seized a
police station in Yerevan last year remained effectively paralyzed on
Wednesday by continuing wrangling between the presiding judge and
defense lawyers.

Two of the lawyers, Arayik Papikian and Mushegh Shushanian, were
unable to attend the latest court hearing in the high-profile trial
after refusing to let court bailiffs check the content of their bags
on security grounds. They and their colleagues say that this amounts
to a search not allowed by Armenian law.

The judge, Artur Gabrielian, sanctioned Papikian and Shushanian and
said he will also ask Armenia's Chamber of Advocates to take
disciplinary action against them for what he considers contempt of
court. Three other attorneys walked out of the courtroom in protest,
leading Gabrielian to again cut short the proceedings.

The judge has regularly clashed with these and other lawyers for
similar reasons since the start of the trial in early June. He has
also barred most of the 14 defendants from the courtroom because of
their refusal stand up and thus show respect for the district
court. The lawyers claim that the authorities deliberately provoked
the turmoil to hold the trial in their and their clients' absence.

Papikian and Shushanian are already facing disciplinary proceedings
launched by the Chamber of Advocates at the request of law-enforcement
authorities. They stem, in part, from Shushanian's characterization of
the Armenian police as an "armed gang" ready to execute "any criminal

Adding to the tensions was the alleged beating by police officers of
four of the arrested gunmen following a court hearing on June
28. Armenia's Special Investigative Service (SIS) pledged to
investigate the incident condemned by local and international human
rights group.

The opposition group seized the police base in Yerevan's Erebuni
district in June 2016. It demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian free
its jailed leader Zhirayr Sefilian and step down. The gunmen laid down
their arms following a two-week standoff with Armenian security forces
which left three police officers dead. 

RFE/RL Report
Yerevan Market Bulldozed To Make Way For Luxury Properties
July 19, 2017
Sisak Gabrielian

Authorities in Yerevan began demolishing an open-air market on
Wednesday as part of a planned redevelopment of a surrounding old
neighborhood in the city center strongly resisted by local residents
and traders.

The market located just a few hundred meters from Yerevan's central
Republic Square has functioned since the early 1990s. Hundreds of
people have sold cheap clothing and other consumer goods on the narrow
Firdousi Street that cuts through the neighborhood made up of mostly
old houses.

In 2007, the Armenian government allowed a private company to tear
down the entire area and construct expensive office and apartment
buildings there. The ensuing global financial crisis, which hit
Armenia's construction sector particularly hard, put those plans on
hold. And the company called Glendale Hills went bankrupt two years

Last year, the Yerevan Mayor's Office announced that another private
developer is now interested in the project and began preparations for
the demolitions, sparking street protests from the owners of several
dozen local houses. Market traders also joined the protests, saying
that the municipality is depriving them of their livelihood.

The municipality offered the traders commercial space in other markets
in Yerevan. Most of them rejected that offer, saying that they would
have to pay higher rent and earn less revenue.

Municipality officials and workers sent by the still unknown developer
met with fierce resistance from the traders on Wednesday morning when
they arrived at the Firdousi Street market to start the
demolitions. They overcame the resistance only after bringing in heavy

The traders protested angrily as their market stalls and small
warehouses were bulldozed in the following hours. "Thank you for
leaving our children's parents without work," cried one woman.

The Firdousi Street houses have been spared demolition for the time
being. Their owners fear that the authorities are preparing the ground
for forcing them to sell their homes at a fraction of their market
value."They are getting to us step by step," one of them told RFE/RL's
Armenian service (

Some locals also complained that representatives of the construction
company have still not visited them to discuss the amount of
compensations that could be paid to them. The municipality has not
even disclosed the company's name so far.

Later on Wednesday, Armenia's human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan,
asked the municipality to suspend the demolitions until the traders
are relocated to other markets. 

RFE/RL Report
Ally Defends Karabakh Leader's Reelection
July 20, 2017
 Hovannes Movsisian
The controversial reelection of Bako Sahakian, Nagorno-Karabakh's
president, was democratic and legitimate, a senior official in
Stepanakert insisted on Thursday.

Sahakian was due to serve out his second and final term in office this
summer. The Karabakh parliament decided on Wednesday, however, that he
will remain in power as an interim president until the unrecognized
republic completes its transition to a fully presidential system of
government in 2020.

The transition is mandated by Karabakh's new constitution enacted
earlier this year amid strong opposition criticism.

Ashot Ghulian, the Karabakh parliament speaker, said the fact that
Sahakian was reelected by local lawmakers, rather than voters, must
not call into question his legitimacy.

"We can give many examples of how presidents and parliaments are
elected in various countries," Ghulian told RFE/RL's Armenian service
( "The modes of election are different. I believe that
in our case it was done under a much more transparent, free and
democratic procedure."

Ghulian also insisted that the prolongation of Sahakian's decade-long
rule will not undermine democracy in Karabakh. "Democracy is not just
about elections," he said. "Democracy is also about the transparency
of a country's political system. The processes that took place before
yesterday's reelection of the president by the parliament were very
transparent, open and understandable to everyone."

Sahakian was backed on Wednesday by 28 members of the 33-seat
legislature representing three political parties loyal to him. One of
those parties is led by Ghulian.

Some opposition figures in Stepanakert claim that the Karabakh leader
plans to participate in the next presidential elections due in 2020
and further extend his rule. Ghulian did not confirm or deny that,
saying that the issue is "not on any party's agenda" yet.

"I don't think that any of the parties is now thinking about 2020 and
has already made that decision," added the Karabakh official.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian IT Growth Hits Record High
July 21, 2017
Sargis Harutyunyan

The rapid growth of Armenia's information technology (IT) sector
employing thousands of engineers accelerated to 38.2 percent last,
according to government data.

The tech industry had already expanded by an average of over 20
percent annually in the previous decade, making it the fastest-growing
sector of the Armenian economy. According to government estimates, the
country's 500 or so mostly small and medium-sized IT firms earned over
$550 million in combined revenue in 2015.

The sector is dominated by the Armenian branches of U.S. tech giants
like as Synopsys, National Instruments, Mentor Graphics and
VMware. But its steady expansion is also increasingly driven by
homegrown Armenian companies.

The most successful of these startups is PicsArt, one of the world's
leading mobile photo editing and sharing applications. The company now
has more than 350 employees in Armenia and boasts 90 million active
monthly users worldwide.

Another, smaller startup founded in 2013 attracted $5 million in
funding from two U.S. venture capital firms earlier this year. The
company called Teamable develops special software used by businesses
for hiring skilled workers. Like PicsArt, Teamable has offices not
only in Yerevan but also in San Francisco.

Another Armenian firm, SoloLearn, won this month the Grand Prize of
Facebook's annual "Apps of the Year" event, which attracted 900
submissions from 87 countries. SoloLearn offers a free online app for
people interested in learning computer programming.

Karen Vartanian, chairman of Armenia's Union of Information Technology
Enterprises (UITE), stressed the growing importance of such
startups. "Our local products are increasingly emerging and proving a
success in the international market," he told RFE/RL's Armenian
service (

Vahan Shakarian, the executive director of the Yerevan-based company
Technology and Science Dynamics manufacturing smartphones and tablet
computers, said the sector's has been rapidly developing because it is
export-oriented. He also cautioned: "Booms are possible in
economics. They key thing is to at least stay at the same level after
they are over. It's quite a challenge."

For Vartanian, the key challenge is a continuing lack of skilled IT
personnel in Armenia. "Our growth is now stunted by a serious shortage
of personnel," he said. "The education system is in tatters."

Industry executives have long complained about the inadequate
professional level of many graduates of IT departments of Armenia
universities. According to their estimates, there are now between
2,000 and 4,000 job vacancies in the sector employing about 15,000

Successive Armenian governments have pledged to tackle this
problem. Vartanian insisted, however, that there is still no
"comprehensive, strategic cooperation" on the matter between the
authorities and IT companies.

In January, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian met with a team of
government officials and tech executives that proposed a wide-ranging
reform of engineering education in Armenia. One of those executives
said only half of 1,300 IT students graduating from Armenian
universities each year are qualified enough to work in the sector
without undergoing further training. 

ARKA, Armenia
July 26 2017
Exports of Armenian fruits and vegetables on the rise 

Armenian farmers have exported so far a total of 65,000 metric tons of fruits and vegetables, the bulk being apricots, strawberries and potatoes, Deputy Agriculture Minister Robert Makaryan told journalists on Wednesday.

Speaking to a news conference he said so far 26,000 tons of apricots have been exported, an unprecedented figure for the last seven years. He said the export of this fruit still continues. He said also export of strawberries has reached 2,500 tons, which is twice as high as in 2016, while export of potatoes - 5,400 tons - is three times more than in the same period last year.

He said the bulk of agricultural exports this year -62,000 metric tons- has gone to Russia. Armenian goods were sent also to Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Ukraine, he added.

As of today, local canneries have procured 10,500 tons of fruits and vegetable, of which 1,330 tons are vegetables, and the rest are fruits, including 3,700 tons of apricots.

According to the deputy minister, this figure is 67% higher than that for the same period in 2016, when Armenian processing enterprises purchased 7,100 tons of fruits and vegetables. According to the National Statistical Service (NSS), the gross agricultural product in the first 6 months of 2017 amounted to 247.1 billion drams, a decrease of 1.4% compared to the same period of 2016.

Casino News Daily
July 25 2017
Armenia Applies New Casino License Rules 

The Armenian government approved last week proposed changes to the country’s casino regulations and the way casino investors are licensed, Russian gambling news outlet News of Gambling has reported citing local media.

Under the new rules an investor or a group of investors will receive a license for the construction and operation of a casino, if they place a AMD40-billion ($83.5 million) price tag on their development project.

The changes are propelled by Armenian Finance Minister Vardan Aramyan. During a meeting of the government, the official pointed out that interested developers will be able to proceed with their plans, if they are ready to commit to major investment. However, he explained that if a group of investors bids for a casino, the license will be issued only to one of the participants in the consortium.

With very few exceptions, land-based casinos are allowed in four specially designated areas around Armenia, with those being Jermuk, Meghri, Sevan, and Tsaghkadzor .

However, casinos are not the only legal form of gambling in the West Asian country. Under its current gambling law, this type of activity can be conducted by licensed owners of gaming halls as well as by iGaming operators. A state-run lottery operator also services local customers.

Earlier this year, the Armenian government adopted amendments to existing gambling regulations. Those changes were, too, encouraged by the Ministry of Finance and were targeting high roller gambling customers. The new regulations came into effect on June 1.

Under the introduced changes, customers, both of land-based and online gambling operators, wagering more than AMD1 million (approximately $2,000) are set to be included in a special database and to have their gaming-related transactions closely monitored. Operators are required to report any such transactions and to be provided with copies of their high-roller customers’ identity documents.

The Armenian government explained the introduction of the new regulations with the need for stricter money-laundering curbs. Late last year, it discussed a substantial increase in the license fees Armenia-facing operators are required to pay annually. Those were to be raised from AMD100 million to AMD500 million . That decision was attributed to the fact that the country’s gambling industry has been growing at a rapid pace over the past several years, but the government has not benefited from that. It was back in 2006 when the last such changes were implemented in Armenia’s gambling licensing process and the related fees.

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