Sunday, 22 July 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Uprising Spreads

July 20 2018
Armenia's uprising spreads to its church 
Inspired by recent regime change, Armenian church hardliners try to force out their unpopular leader.
Grigor Atanesian 

On a dirt road high in the mountains of southern Armenia, the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, the top figure in the Armenian church, stood puzzled as a group of protesters surrounded him, shouting.
“Step down! Leave the Holy See!” chanted the crowd, including young monks in black robes, as they physically blocked him from getting into his SUV. 

The protesters were part of a movement that has been targeting the deeply unpopular Karekin, an effort inspired by the recent toppling of Armenia's longtime political leader, Serzh Sargsyan – known as Serjik to his detractors. “Karekin, leave! Join Serjik!” they chanted, even pushing and grabbing him, as seen in an extraordinary video that shocked Armenians both for its aggression against the Catholicos and for the surprising vulnerability he displayed. 

Eventually police were able to bundle the cleric into his vehicle. But the July 14 encounter highlighted the growing challenges facing Karekin and the church in the new Armenia.

The movement to oust him, called “New Armenia, New Patriarch,” has been holding rallies in downtown Yerevan, recording video appeals against Karekin, and picketing his office in Etchmiadzin, the ancient seat of the Armenian church just outside Yerevan. 

The movement is being led by Hieromonk Koryun Arakelyan, the abbot of the Gndevank Monastery, where Karekin II visited on July 14 in attempt to negotiate with the monastery brethren. Arakelyan is a theological hardliner with a large following across Armenia, well-respected for his piety and devotion. Since April, when protests led by Nikol Pashinyan toppled Sargsyan, Arakelyan has been in Yerevan leading the effort to bring about a similar result in the Armenian church. 

The parallels are inescapable: Arakelyan's followers compare him to Pashinyan and see Karekin as a Sargsyan that the church has yet to force out.

Karekin II is indeed, like Sargsyan, extremely unpopular and widely considered corrupt. His predecessor, Karekin I, was respected as a nonpartisan spiritual leader for both Armenians and the large diaspora. But Karekin II 's lavish lifestyle has been difficult to hide in the small country. Plus, he allied himself closely with the ousted Sargsyan, regularly appearing alongside the former president and giving his explicit political support.

Karekin II's rule has been beset by scandals. In 2011, a leaked video showed him in business talks over wine with his Georgian counterpart, Patriarch Ilia II; Karekin’s emboldened tone and mafia-like mannerisms embarrassed many in Armenia.. 

In 2015, an investigative report revealed that he had a million-dollar Swiss bank account. And in April 2018, a video showed the church leader fawning over a jewel-encrusted crozier presented as a gift by a Russian businessman. 

The Catholicos also has been accused of nepotism for consecrating a number of priests and bishops from his native village of Voskehat. 

While these criticisms are widespread, the protesters of the “New Armenia, New Patriarch” initiative go further. They endorse a hardline version of Oriental Orthodox Christianity and have criticized Karekin for meeting with “heretics” – namely gay female Anglican bishops and Freemasons – and even accuse him of being secretly married and having children. 

Arakelyan is also known to be skeptical of Karekin's rapprochement with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, including Greek and Russian, because of their doctrinal differences with Armenian Christianity, which has intercommunion with the Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian churches.

Unlike Pashinyan, however, Arakelyan isn't trying to nominate himself for the leadership position. 
“It’s an unspoken rule in the history of our church – when a Catholicos loses his mind, the monasteries' abbots have to preserve common sense or fight against heresy,” said Levon Hakopian, a Moscow-based activist who is currently in Armenia to help coordinate the movement. 

Hakopian claimed the protest is supported by others among monastic hierarchies and parish priests across the country, but said he couldn’t give names for security reasons: “Look, Father Koryun’s car has been followed, and there were a couple of cars waiting outside our office day and night,” Hakopian said. He said the vehicles’ plates traced back to Voskehat, Karekin’s native village and power base.

While the “New Armenia, New Patriarch” movement is inspired by Pashinyan's “Velvet Revolution” this past spring, it is not of it. 

“These protests are directly influenced by the revolution. People realize that protesting isn’t fruitless or necessarily dangerous,” said Karen Aghekian, a Minsk-based editor for Hamatext, an online magazine covering Armenian politics. However, he added, “civil society activists are absolutely indifferent to the church and what’s going on inside of it. Their life depends on fixing politics, the economy, and social issues, and not the church.” 

Youth activists who helped topple Sargsyan mostly have mostly ignored the protests. “I’m not at all interested in church life,” said Anush Lalaian, a longtime anti-government protester and now adviser in the Ministry of Diaspora. “I just have no interest in ecclesiastical issues.”
The protesters' confrontational tactics might be another factor limiting their popularity, suggested Hovhannes Igityan, a political commentator and former chairman of parliament’s Committee on Foreign Relations. “I don’t think aggressive actions can lead to the Catholicos’s resignation. Moreover, they can backfire,” said Igityan. 
“Yes, the Catholicos of All Armenians perhaps has done a lot wrong and isn’t the best Catholicos in our history, but perpetrating violence and grabbing him by the shirt front is categorically unacceptable for me,” wrote Alen Simonyan, a member of parliament from Pashinyan's Yelk bloc, in a Facebook post.

The ARF Dashnaktsutyun, a party formerly aligned with Sargsyan but which has now sided with Pashinyan, has come out in support of Karekin: “Church-related issues are unacceptable. I don't understand why we are so reserved, thus pushing the society towards confrontation. Those in power should establish law and order in the country,” said Hrant Markarian, the head of the party, on July 18.

Soon after the Gndevank humiliation, the Catholicos moved to defrock Arakelyan. The move was publicly supported by a number of bishops, and Mikael Ajapahyan, bishop of the Shirak diocese, went as far as to denounce the protesters as “morally dead.” 

The protesters, meanwhile, are retooling their tactics and suspending street protests, said Hakopian, the Moscow-based activist. “We started by emphasizing Karekin’s lack of authority and his connections to the former regime, but now we plan to publish exposés on his businesses and bank accounts and violations of church canon laws.” Karekin's allies have said the activists have no supporting evidence. 

For his part, since being elected Pashinyan has refrained from publicly commenting on the issue. 

“I just don’t know what the government or civil society can do here, given the constitutional separation of church and state,” said Igityan. “This is a church issue really.

Grigor Atanesian is a freelance journalist who covers Armenia.


Panorama, Armenia
July 21 2018
Situation relatively calm in Armenia’s bordering Baghanis – village head

Azerbaijani military opened gunfire toward the roadway connecting the towns of Ijevan and Noyemberyan in Armenia’s northeastern region of Tavush two days ago, Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said.
He added that the fire ‘has fortunately left no casualties and the situation is calm at the moment.’

Panorama.am has talked to Narek Sahakyan, the head of Baghanis village, to get informed about the situation in the community of bordering Tavush region.

He noted that the village hardly came under Azerbaijani fire over past few days, adding the situation in Baghanis is relatively calm at the moment. 

The village head informed that the wheat harvest have already started in the village, with the Baghanis residents satisfied with its outcomes.

Sahakyan, who was also taking part in the harvest during the communication, noted the harvest volumes have recorded an increase from past year, meantime adding the frequent rains have slightly affected the quality of wheat this year.

He also added that sowing areas are growing in the village year by year. “Villagers increase 2-3 hectares [of sowing areas] annually. Everyone sows in their private lands,” Sahakyan said. “We have no reserve lands. They are totally under adversary’s positions and are not used.” 


Arminfo, Armenia
July 21 2018
Pashinyan is puzzled that there are still officials in EU who do not notice changes taking place in Armenia
Marianna Mkrtchyan. 

Armenia did nothing and will not do it for the sake of financial assistance from outside. This was stated by the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan at a meeting with journalists on July 20, referring to his statement made at the Brussels airport on relations with the EU.
"During all the meetings held within the framework of my visit to Brussels, I clearly stated that, firstly, democracy is not an element of foreign policy orientation for us, it is our belief and faith.

And the processes that have taken place recently in Armenia have demonstrated that this is the embodiment of the political values of our people. Secondly, over the years the EU has stated that it builds relations with the Eastern Partnership countries conditionally speaking by the formula "Greater in exchange for more." Moreover, it concerned the values known to us - democracy, independent judiciary, transparency, the rule of law, the fight against corruption, "Pashinyan said.

At the same time, he noted that before his visit to Brussels, the European Union declared its readiness to assist Armenia in some way. The head of government stressed that in the course of his well-known statement, he expressed bewilderment that the formula proposed by the EU in fact does not work. "And I am amazed that a number of European officials, during meetings with me, say that they expect changes in Armenia both today and today, and I am surprised that there are still officials in the EU who do not notice the changes that have In order to make everything clear, I gave specific examples, in particular, I informed that today's government, in two months or even a month, without spending a penny, has done more in the area of fighting corruption, than was done in the interaction with the EU by the former government, spending tens of millions of euros on it. I just said it, "Pashinyan assured.

At the same time, he once again stressed that Armenia did nothing, and will not do for the sake of financial assistance. The head of the Armenian government noted that all that the present authorities are doing, she is doing for the sake of her people and the realization of the mandate that she received from the people. "I want this position to be clear, and we clearly sent our messages to our partners, and we stressed that this is our position and they should get used to it," the Armenian Prime Minister summed up.


Arminfo, Armenia
July 20 2018
Yerevan reminded Baku of half a million Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan
Marianna Mkrtchyan. 

The representative of Azerbaijan visually demonstrated the degree of hatred towards Armenia and the Armeniansociety, which the Azerbaijani government sows in its own society.

This was stated during the meeting of the 15th OSCE conference for the South Caucasus media "Quality journalism for reliable and reliable information" in Tbilisi, Head of the Department of Information and Public Diplomacy of the Armenian Foreign Ministry Helen Harutyunyan, reacting to the anti-Armenian statement of the representative of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Khimket Hajiyev.

Since I was deprived of the right to reply to some accusations made against Armenia yesterday by the representative of Azerbaijan, I take this opportunity to respond and to set the record straight. And indeed, since the session is about countering the have speech, it seems to be the right setting to respond to the hate speech directed against my country. But before coming to the subject of the matter I would like to express my concern at the continuous abuse of this platform to disseminate anti Armenian propaganda, hatred and false information under the inaction of the moderator. I would like to strongly request the moderators of the sessions to be attentive and to exercise their authority and prevent panelists from using this format for conducting what should be called hostile information directed against another country. I hope that the organizers will draw necessary conclusions and we will not have the same situation next year.

On the other hand, the representative of Azerbaijan vividly showed the extent of hostility towards Armenia and the Armenians that the Azerbaijani government is cultivating in the country. And with each passing year this narrative is being enriched with new nuances. Mr Hajiyev went as far as to accuse Armenia of committing a holocaust, uttering an allegation which relates to an extremely sensitive subject for the people who survived the Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire. It seems, that you do not know the value of the word, but we do. And firmly reject all your groundless accusations. 
And when it comes to refugees, then we should speak 
about the almost half a million Armenians that barely escaped with their lives from the rampage of marauding gangs in the Armenian districts of the cities in Azerbaijan, including the capital, escaped with nothing but the clothes on their backs. But the Armenian government did not keep them hostage of foreign policy games, since the rights of these people were the ultimate value.

It has become a good old tradition for the Azerbaijani authorities, that whenever someone is speaking about the pitiful state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Azerbaijan, they dodge all the questions by diverting the attention towards Armenia and the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. And by the way, the conflict is about the right of the people of Artsakh to live in a free and democratic country, which Azerbaijan is obviously not. And sooner Azerbaijan comes to terms with it, the sooner we will be able to find a sustainable peace.

Nagorno Karabakh, or I should say Republic of Artsakh is an independent state with fully functioning democratic institutions, where freedom of the media and pluralism of opinions is ensured and respected, and well recognized by the international relevant organisations. They do not put journalists in prison on bogus charges, they do not shut down media outlets and they do not restrict access of journalists and they do not put them in black lists. The authorities of Artsakh believe in the right to information and the freedom of media and ensure it both in law and in practice.

And the final observation. Mr Hajiyev has been complaining about the revelations about the widespread corruption scheme targeting European politicians, known as Azerbaijani Laundromat, which were made by the Organised Crime and Corruption reporting project. He called it unfair ''cold-war type propaganda'' against Azerbaijan without any hard evidence. But it seems, the evidence provided was enough for Italian prosecutors, for Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly and others to take necessary legal actions. Instead of spending millions trying to bribe European politicians to prevent their criticism of the situation with democracy, human rights and rule of law in Azerbaijan, I would strongly recommend to try and build a genuine democratic modern state, believe me, it will be much more economically efficient and much more beneficial for the Azerbaijani people.


The Herald (Glasgow), Scotland
July 20, 2018 Friday
How Britain enables routine, everyday corruption and fraud in former USSR
by David Leask
 
IN Armenia and Siberia there are questions about millions of dollars of missing tax. In Kazakhstan, holidaymakers are complaining about a hard-sell timeshare scheme.
 
These are all routine stories of crime, corruption and unethical trading published in the former Soviet Union over the last few months.
 
They all have one thing on common: at their very centre is the alleged abuse of a Scottish limited partnership or SLP, the corporate structure long dubbed "Britain's home-grown secrecy vehicle".
 
In fact, there are so many international revelations, big and small, about SLPs and similar English, Northern Irish and Scottish entities called limited liability partnerships or LLPs, that we would need a special edition of The Herald just to cover them all.
 
This article catalogues just a few recent scandals to emerge since UK Government - under pressure from the SNP and transparency campaigners - announced in the spring that it would reform SLPs (but not English or Scottish LLPs). A consultation on those changes ends this weekend.
 
Let's start with a big story from Armenia. Its National Security Service recently arrested three officials at a business called Norfolk Consulting which last year secured a monopoly on handling customs processing for cargo from neighbouring Turkey, China and the United Arab Emirates.
 
The men have been charged with serious tax evasion. Local media suggest some $7 million in import duties has been lost between August of last year and May of this year.
 
Armenia said Norfolk Consulting was owned by a business registered in Edinburgh last year, Norfolk Project. This SLP was created just as the UK Government last summer forced such entities to name a person of significant control, or PSC.
 
This policy was designed to deter abuse. Norfolk Project has named its official owner, a man with an Armenian name who lives in Moscow.
 
The case in Armenia continues. The general director of Norfolk Consulting was last month remanded in custody pending trial.
 
Armenia's story has echoes thousands of miles away. Journalists in the Siberian republic of Khakassia, part of Russia, are asking questions about tax there. They want to know why a huge open-cast coal mine is selling millions of tonnes of coal at below-market prices to a Russian-registered intermediary, which then sells the fuel on to two British firms. One of those UK businesses is an SLP and shares an Edinburgh address with Norfolk Project. The other is an English LLP. Neither have revealed their owners. Local news sites have found paperwork for the Russian intermediary. One of its beneficiaries, they said, is the 90-year-old father of an MP.
 
Just across the border from Khakassia, in Kazakhstan there is a rolling row with consumers saying they have been given an unfair hard-sell by a holiday company flogging timeshares. Customers entered into deals through the holiday firm with a London LLP and an SLP registered at the same address, a well-known mass mailbox, as Armenia's Norfolk Project and the Khakassian coal case SLP.
 
At the other end of the old former Soviet Union, in the Latvian capital Riga, there are questions about a lawyer gunned down earlier this year.
 
Martins Bunkus was working on the insolvency of a Trasta Komercbanka, which lost its licence over breaches of money-laundering and counter-terror rules two years ago. Trasta was where shell firms involved in the Russian Laundromat - the biggest ever scandal to feature SLPs and LLPs - had many of their accounts.
 
Mr Bunkus was killed in his Range Rover. He also drove an Aston Martin. Both were leased by a firm ultimately owned by LLPs registered in Milton Keynes.
 
Latvia is currently cleaning up its banks, which have started to drop their offshore clients, including many SLPs and LLPs and their usually secret ultimate owners. It has come under pressure from the US and European Union to do so, not least because of a series of money-laundering scandals involving the rest of the former Soviet Union.
 
Ukraine is the country which most frequently throws up stories involving SLPs and LLPs, frequently with Latvian banks and often with Trasta.
 
Only this week Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau or Nabu announced it was looking at the accounts of the country's publicly owned research institute for the nitrogen industry. Nitrogen is a big deal in an agriculturally rich place like Ukraine: think fertiliser.
 
Nabu has a formal criminal investigation in to the alleged theft of some $7.5m from the institute, which goes by the Ukrainian acronym UkrGIAP. Detectives from Nabu said the institute had ordered goods and services from seven overseas firms for the $7.5m, with payment up front to Baltic banks. The goods were never delivered, according to court filings made as part of the investigation and reported in local media.
 
The firms paid? Two were SLPs: Fukuyama Invest of Edinburgh's Montgomery Street and Europe Inter Corp of Glasgow's Bath Street. Both firms dissolved on the same day almost a year ago. Two were LLPs, both from London.
 
Nabu has secured court permission to ask UK authorities for support in the case. The agency also wants Britain's help on the "possible theft" of $2.5m from a state enterprise which reconditions aircraft, Aviakon.
 
According to court filings, Aviakon overpaid for new fuel tanks it bought for helicopters from a business in the notorious tax haven of Nevis. Nabu says money from those deals went to offshore firms, including an LLP in Leith and a Berkshire business of the same kind.
 
An LLP from Newcastle been named in the Ukrainian press as part owner of a factory producing cigarettes so cheap there have been questions about whether excise has been paid.
 
An opponent of the now ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, senior Ukrainian MP, Borislav Rozenblat, was last year caught on tape describing how a "Scottish firm" could be used to export Ukrainian amber falsely described as Polish. He denies any wrongdoing.
 
Now Ukraine's defence ministry is buying military-grade drones from a firm in neighbouring Moldova owned by his wife. The drones were made from parts supplied by an SLP.
 
Chris Law, an SNP MP, earlier this year visited Ukraine as part of a party delegation meeting senior figures in the country. Scottish shell firms were firmly on the agenda, he said. "We were left in no doubt, by those at the highest levels, that SLPs pose a real threat, not only to the Ukrainian economy, but to security as well, as faith in the democratic process is undermined by the dead weight of corruption," Mr Law said. "Stopping this abuse of SLPs would be probably the most significant support the UK Government could make to help Ukraine to becoming a full democracy, by allowing it to use the wealth it creates for the benefit of the Ukrainian people."


Irish Times
July 21 2018
Secret Nation review: insight into the invisible Armenians in Turkey
Avedis Hadjian presents a genocide-scarred culture where Armenians deny their identity
Martin Doyle
                     
If you’ve ever visited Turkey, you will have encountered people you assumed were Turkish but who could well have been Armenian. Avedis Hadjian, author of Secret Nation: The Hidden Armenians of Turkey, spent three years travelling round eastern Turkey, the historic Armenian homeland, meeting those mountain people who keep a low profile in a country accused of murdering or deporting about 1½ million of their people. The account of these horrendous times is littered with euphemisms such as “forced migration” or “forcibly minoritised”. Though always denied by Turkey, the word soykurum – Turkish for genocide – encompasses the whole sorry story.

Hadjian is part of that story. A journalist, born in Aleppo and educated in Buenos Aires and Cambridge, he bears an Armenian family name and, of vital importance, speaks Hamshetsnak, the almost-forgotten dialect of western Armenia which is now part of Turkey. During his travels, he seeks out people in the villages and towns of that most mountainous part of Turkey, chatting with  anyone who will talk to him.

Generally, he is welcomed courteously, guided along perilously steep mountain paths, offered lifts from one village to the next often with someone phoning ahead to introduce him. But nearly always there is the denial: No, we’re not Armenian. We are Turkish and we are Muslim. But your name, Hadjian will say having done his research, is Armenian. At this they shake their heads. Maybe many years ago but not now. Some see him as stirring up trouble for them and on one occasion are angry enough for him to beat a hasty retreat.

Ottoman defeat
But why the denial? One explanation is that after the defeat of the Ottomans and their 300 years of Sunni rule, people wanted a united Turkey, some wanting it at any price. Turkey for the Turks was the call. Villagers tell Hadjian stories their grandparents told them of Armenian villages laid bare, of Armenians hunted, hounded and pushed off bridges into the Euphrates or dying during forced marches across the Syrian desert. (In eastern Syria, in the Armenian church in Raqqa, I saw pictures of Armenian women against whom the most evil of sexual crimes had been committed.)

Some Armenians, hoping to pass as Turkish, survived by adopting Islam, freely or otherwise, the latter process known as Islamicisation. Coincidentally, Hadjian introduces us to a bus driver who explains the policy by holding up his index finger: one country, one flag, one language. No room for minorities there.

When survival is paramount, the denial of their origins by some Armenians is understandable though Hadjian is puzzled by the reaction of people to whom he has shown documents proving they are Armenian. Many respond with amazement, wanting to know more about their supposed Turkish origins or their suggested Armenian background. And despite the evidence, they maintain that though they may indeed be Armenian they remain Muslim even though before going to the mosque to have Iftar they might deviate to the Armenian Orthodox Church to light a candle or two.
Persian saying

Some Armenians actually designated themselves Turkish – which meant remaining silent about the genocide – because they invested their hopes in Kemal Ataturk and his post-Ottoman dream of a united secular Turkey.
Though teetering towards information overload – so many villages, so many people – this doorstop of a book gives us a fascinating if challenging account of present-day mountain life in Turkey: the annual tea harvesting done by the whole family, sheep herding, hoeing in the shadow of Mount Ararat. There’s the big family meal and the get-together which ends in fisticuffs. As the Persian saying goes: “They hate each other like cousins.”

Whatever you say, say nothing is the order of the day. Armenians distrust the Kurds, suspecting they collaborated with Turks to carry out the 1915 genocide. The Turks see the Christian Armenians as infidels and the Christian Armenians denigrate those Armenians who became Muslim. Distrust casts a shadow over everything. Occasionally, however, Hadjian shines a light into the darkness when Vartan tells his story. Vartan’s Armenian father, orphaned when his family was murdered, was taken in by a kindly Turkish family who brought the child up as a Muslim. Vartan was 25 before he learned he was actually Armenian. But, married to a Kurd, their children Muslim, he lives in a desolate place not of his making: “I feel alone and cold,” he says.
For those dispossessed of their past, the Armenia story is one that has yet to reach its ending.


ArmenPress, Armenia
July 18 2018
Russian pranksters again pretend to be Armenia's PM calling this time EU's Juncker and Mogherini

Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus (Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov), this time called European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pretending to be Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, discussing with him the international situation, as well as inviting the EU official to Yerevan to taste barbecue.

The pranksters also called EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, RIA Novosti reports.

According to the Russian news agency, the telephone conversation has been made shortly after Nikol Pashinyan’s election as Armenia’s PM. RIA Novosti has the recordings of the phone talk.

During the phone talk with Jean-Claude Juncker, the pranksters expressed their complaint over the pressure by the US, and in response to this, the European Commission President stated that they have to “again and again explain Mr. Trump what is the world order”. “He doesn’t understand what is happening. We should be convinced that he will start to better understand the ongoing developments in Armenia. OK. Good luck”, Juncker said.

The pranksters invited him to Yerevan, offering to make barbecue in the square and hold a “unique rally”.
“Sounds good. I will visit next year. This year it’s already impossible, but we will find respective time and opportunities for the next year”, Juncker said.

During the phone talk with the pranksters, Federica Mogherini said the new leadership of Armenia must have good relations with all partners. “We should act cautiously. Armenia is the country that has a right to choose”, she said.

Earlier the Russian pranksters called UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger in the name of Armenian PM.

Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan

Armenian News... A Topalian...Man detained in Azerbaijan


RFE/L Report
Armenian Man Detained In Azerbaijan
July 16, 2018
Sisak Gabrielian

A resident of an Armenian border village was detained by Azerbaijani authorities after crossing into Azerbaijan in unclear circumstances at the weekend.

The Azerbaijani military claimed to have captured the 34-year-old Karen Ghazarian while thwarting an Armenian incursion into Azerbaijani territory.

The Armenian Defense Ministry was quick to deny the alleged incursion attempt, insisting that Karapetian is a civilian resident of Berdavan, a village in the northern Tavush province located just a few kilometers from the Azerbaijani border. It said he has a history of mental disease.

“He suffers from mental problems and because of that didn’t serve in the armed forces of Armenia,” Tigran Balayan, the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, 
insisted on Monday.

Berdavan’s mayor, Smbat Mughdusian, also said that Ghazarian lives in the local community and suffers from mental disorders. Mughdusian said he went missing 
shortly after midnight.

The mayor suggested that Ghazarian lost his way and accidentally crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The man’s family house in the village is closest to the frontier, he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

According to Balayan, the Armenian authorities are now trying to help repatriate Ghazarian, including through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). An ICRC spokesperson in Yerevan said its representatives in Baku 
are already trying to visit him in custody.

Three Armenian nations are currently held captive in Azerbaijan, according to the ICRC.

One of them, Zaven Karapetian, was captured in June 2014, with Baku similarly claiming to have thwarted an Armenian incursion. Yerevan dismissed that version 
of events, saying that Karapetian was a civilian resident in Vanadzor, an Armenian city around 130 kilometers from the border section which he crossed for still unknown reasons.

Three residents of other Tavush villages strayed into Azerbaijan in 2014. Two of them were branded Armenian “saboteurs” by the authorities in Baku and died shortly afterwards.

Karen Petrosian, a 33-year-old resident of Chinari village, was pronounced dead in August 2014 one day after being detained in an Azerbaijani village across the border. The Azerbaijani military claimed that he died of “acute heart 
failure.” Many in Armenia believe, however, that Petrosian was murdered or beaten to death. The United States and France expressed serious concern at Petrosian’s suspicious death at the time.

A 77-year-old resident of another Tavush village, Verin Karmiraghbyur, died in May 2014 three months after being apprehended on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier in similar circumstances. Doctors in Yerevan said the man, Mamikon Khojoyan, suffered serious injuries during his month-long captivity.

Another Armenian civilian died in Azerbaijani custody in 2010. The 20-year-old Manvel Saribekian, whose Tutujur village is also very close to the Azerbaijani border, was paraded on Azerbaijani television following his capture. Saribekian was found hanged in an Azerbaijani detention center shortly afterwards.


Public Radio of Armenia
July 17 2018
Catholicos defrocks Fr. Koryun Arakelyan

His Holiness Katekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, has defrocked Fr. Koryun Arakelyan for improper conduct and anticanonical behavior.

The priest participated in anti-Catholicos protests and was given a week to repent.


RFE/RL Report
Tax Chief Vows Continued Fight Against Informal Economy
July 16, 2018
Harry Tamrazian

Armenia - Davit Ananian, head of the State Revenue Committee, arrives for a news conference in Yerevan, 13 July 2018.

Tackling the sizable informal sector of Armenia’s economy is a top priority for tax authorities, the head of the State Revenue Committee (SRC), Davit Ananian, said over the weekend.

Ananian said he has decided to set up a task force that will strive to measure the precise scale of tax evasion in various sectors of the economy. He admitted that the SRC currently lacks full information about it.

“If we don’t have estimates of the informal sector we won’t be able to say with which instruments we should be combatting it and whether that fight can be deemed effective,” Ananian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

“For the first time we are setting up a working group in order to gauge that grey economy,” he said. “This will be the cornerstone of the SRC’s activities.”

Ananian promised a tougher crackdown on companies and individuals underreporting their earnings when he was appointed as head of the SRC in late May. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said last week that the tax and customs 
service has since recovered more than 20 billion drams ($42 million) of unpaid taxes. The sum was collected from 73 companies, according to the SRC.

“The number of such firms is going up by the day and so is the figure cited by the prime minister,” said Ananian. He insisted that the main purpose of these fines is not to boost the government’s tax revenues but to make businesses “change their behavior.”


RFE/RL Report
ashinian Blasts Unannounced Russian Drill 
July 19, 2018
 Karlen Aslanian

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Thursday strongly condemned Russian troops stationed in Armenia for holding an apparently unannounced military exercise 
that caused panic in an Armenian village.

“That was an inadmissible incident,” Pashinian said at a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan. “I regard that as a provocation against friendly Russian-Armenian relations and a provocation against Armenia’s sovereignty. I think that the guilty individuals must be held accountable.”

Amateur video posted on social media showed chaotic scenes in Panik, a village in the northwestern Shirak province, on Tuesday, with local resident terrified by the sound of gunfire and explosions. Some of them angrily confronted Russian soldiers training very close to village houses, demanding explanations.

The soldiers stopped the exercise as a result. They are part of a Russian military base headquartered in the nearby city of Gyumri.

The commander of the base, Colonel Vladimir Yelkanov, and his deputy Alexey Polyukhovich apologized for the incident on Wednesday at separate emergency 
meetings held with Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and Shirak’s governor respectively. They said that the Russian military launched an internal inquiry.

Pashinian said that Armenian authorities must also investigate the incident. “I am told that the police are preparing materials [for a probe,]” he told ministers.

Panik is located very close to one of the two shooting grounds used by the Russian base. Local residents say that the scandalous drill was held within the administrative boundaries of the village.

Pashinian’s strong reaction was criticized as disproportionate by Armen Ashotian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations and a senior member of the former ruling Republican Party (HHK).

“Any infringement of Armenia’s sovereignty is undoubtedly unacceptable,” Ashotian wrote on Facebook. “But this incident did not constitute one.”

“It is not comprehensible what Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s sharp assessment given at the government meeting was aimed at, considering the apologies and regrets that were voiced by the Russian military base yesterday,” he said.

Warning of serious damage to Russian-Armenian relations, Ashotian added that Yerevan should now scramble to “freeze this dangerous process through diplomatic channels.”


July 17 2018
Armenian women helped oust an autocrat. But they’re still being left out of politics.
By  Zia Weise

This past spring, as Armenia erupted in protests that would eventually oust the country’s longtime leader, women took to the streets in droves. Within days, their ranks swelled to numbers unheard of in the small, and still largely patriarchal, Caucasus nation.

Many, including the country’s new prime minister, believe that women were key to the success of Armenia’s so-called “Velvet Revolution.” But when the opposition unveiled their new government in May, female activists were disappointed to see that their numbers in the streets had not translated into greater political representation: Of 17 ministers, only two were women.

“I saw so many girls in the streets, more or less equal to the number of guys. My mum was in the streets, my little sister was pregnant and protesting,” said Sona Ghazaryan, a 25-year-old activist. “There was a huge participation of the female part of Armenia, but in the government, we see a different picture. That’s a sad story.”

The protests began in April when the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) nominated outgoing President Serzh Sargsyan for the post of prime minister.

After a decade as president, Sargsyan was about to complete his second and final term in office. At the same time, Armenia was transitioning from a presidential system of governance to a parliamentary model, transferring the president’s powers to the prime minister.

Many Armenians therefore saw Sargsyan’s move toward the prime ministry as an attempt to sidestep constitutional term limit rules — breaking his earlier promise not to run again as either prime minister or president.

Enraged activists and politicians, led by Nikol Pashinyan, an opposition member of parliament, began organizing demonstrations that swiftly ballooned in size, bringing the capital, Yerevan, to a standstill. Pashinyan urged nonviolence, declaring the protests a “Velvet Revolution” in homage to the peaceful end of Communist rule in former Czechoslovakia.

Lara Aharonian, a veteran women’s rights activist, believes that women were instrumental in keeping the protests peaceful: “Especially with elderly women present, it was hard for the police to confront them,” she said.
Sargsyan stepped down after nearly two weeks of sustained protests, and Pashinyan was elected as prime minister in early May. His pledge to strengthen democracy and eradicate corruption was met with praise around the world. But the lack of women in his cabinet sparked complaints.

“It's not as if there aren't enough qualified women. If you go and have a meeting with civil society, there are so many women,” said Ghazaryan, who helped coordinate the protests. “It’s not nice to have just two [women] ministers.”
Pashinyan has repeatedly emphasized the importance of women’s participation. “Many people are stressing the role of the youth, which is, of course, very important,” he said, speaking to a small group of reporters at his official Yerevan residence in June. “But women played a little bit more important role in this revolution.”

Still, Pashinyan defended his decision to appoint only two female ministers, saying he had chosen his ministers from a small circle of prominent activists. As everything had happened so quickly, he argued, few women had emerged as leaders over the course of the protests.

Asked what he would do to increase the representation of women in politics and society, he gave no definitive answer. “I think that women boosted their own role themselves. I don’t think that government should do anything to boost any role,” he said.

Women activists concede that when it came to giving speeches and leading the protests, men were more visible during the protests. But that, they say, is no excuse for leaving women out of government. They have also criticized Pashinyan for assigning the two women to ministries seen as stereotypically female posts: culture and social affairs.

“The social minister and the culture minister aren’t so important. The appointment of those two posts also says something about how women are viewed,” said Olya Azatyan, a civil society activist.

Like many Armenian feminists, Azatyan sees the country’s patriarchal social norms as the root cause. Gender equality is enshrined in the country’s legal code, but discrimination is widespread. Domestic violence is endemic: A 2011 survey conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found that 60 percent of women had been subjected to domestic violence at least once.

Last year, the proportion of women in Armenia’s parliament stood at 18 percent, according to World Bank data. It's an improvement: Between Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and 2016, women lawmakers accounted for 10 percent or less. The current global average stands at 24 percent.

Aharonian said that while she was disappointed by the lack of female ministers, she was therefore not surprised. “This new government grew up in the same patriarchal society. They have the stereotype that women should not be involved in dirty political work,” she said.

But she is optimistic about the future. With a government largely comprised of activists in power, civil society groups wield greater influence than ever before.

“There was no political will in the old government,” said Aharonian. These days, however, civil society activists are in constant dialogue with Pashinyan and his ministers: “We’ve met more often with the new government in the last months than we met with the old government in years.”
And many female protesters hope for more women in parliament after the next elections. Pashinyan is currently running an interim government and has pledged to hold snap elections within a year.

The government may have a responsibility to work on gender equality. But Olya Azatyan says it’s ultimately up to Armenian women to step out of the shadows and enter politics in greater numbers. She worries that many qualified women lack the self-confidence to put their names forward.

“I know some women have been suggested for posts and refused, thinking that they are not qualified enough,” Azatyan said. “I don’t know any man who’s been offered a post and refused it. Women think they have to work twice as hard.”

Yet, Armenia is changing. Sona Ghazaryan, for one, is thinking of running for a parliamentary seat in the next elections.

“Women in parliament, they’re seen as pretty things who occasionally say something interesting,” she said. “It’s time for a change.”


PanArmenian, Armenia
July 16 2018
Forbes: Kim Kardashian among world's highest-paid entertainers 

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian has been included in the Forbes' list of the world's highest-paid entertainers of 2018.

The Celebrity 100 list ranks front-of-camera stars around the globe using their pretax earnings from June 1, 2017 through June 1, 2018, before deducting fees for managers, lawyers and agents. Estimates are based on numbers from Nielsen, Pollstar, IMDB, SoundScan, NPD BookScan and ComScore, as well as interviews with industry experts and many of the stars themselves.

The American Armenian icon has made a total of $67 million to claim the 30th spot in the ranking, while her sister Kylie Jenner pulled in $166.5 million to claim the No. 3 spot, boosted by a sprawling cosmetics empire that has her on the verge of becoming a billionaire before she’s old enough to drink.

Floyd Mayweather tops the ranking with $285 million in pretax earnings, almost entirely on the strength of his August 2017 fight versus listmate Conor McGregor. George Clooney finishes second with $239 million, most of it coming from liquor giant Diageo’s purchase of Casamigos, the tequila company he cofounded, giving him the best annual take-home of his—or any actor’s—career.
The world’s 100 top-earning celebrities pulled in a combined $6.3 billion pretax over the past 12 months, up 22% from last year; 11 superstars crossed the $100 million threshold, more than double the number from the last two years combined.

As reported earlier, Kardashian made it to the Forbes' fourth annual list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. With a net worth of $350 million, Kardashian was placed the 54th, while Jenner has leveraged her massive social media following (110 million followers on Instagram) to build a $900 million cosmetics fortune in less than three years.


July 16 2018
Armenian Vipers Born At St. Louis Zoo In Time For World Snake Day 
By J. Ryne Danielson

ST. LOUIS, MO — Today is World Snake Day and the Saint Louis Zoo is celebrating the birth of six Armenian vipers, a threatened species found only in the mountains of Armenia. The vipers were born at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium on June 13 and 14 to two different females and weighed around 6 to 11 grams each at birth. The baby vipers are being cared for in a private area of the Herpetarium, zoo officials said.

"The animal care team at the Herpetarium created a special temperature-controlled room for our Western Asian vipers, which has been key to breeding this species," said Mark Wanner, zoological manager of herpetology and aquatics, and director of the Saint Louis Zoo's WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in Western Asia. "The room is cooled down in the winter allowing these snakes a seasonal breeding cycle, much like they would experience in nature. The keepers meticulously monitor these snakes throughout the year, observing their health and reproductive status."

These births are a result of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Armenian Viper Species Survival Plan, a program to manage a genetically healthy Armenian viper population. The Saint Louis Zoo has been reproducing this species since 2002.

World Snake Day activities and keeper chats take place at the Herpetarium from 1 to 3 p.m. today. National Zookeeper Week kicked off yesterday, and events at the zoo will continue through the summer. Keeper chats are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. every day, and animal enrichment and training presentations are at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, at various locations. 


A1+
“Alashkert” loses to “Celtic’
July 19,2018

In the second game of the first qualifying stage of the UEFA Champions League, the Yerevan “Alaskert” with a score of 0:3 was defeated by the local “Celtic” in Glasgow.

Score in the match was opened at the 8th minute by Scotsman Moussa Dembele. After three minutes, ten players remained in “Celtic” remained, because of a rough game from the field was removed Jozo Šimunović.

Despite the numerical advantage, “Alaskert” could not create a serious scoring chances, and the home team already in the first half scored two more goals and the score was 3:0. First the 11-meter strike was scored by the same Moussa Dembele, then the author of the goal was James Forest. In the second half, the teams could not achieve any new success.

Thus, “Alaskert” in the second match in a row lost with the same score 0:3 and dropped out of the tournament of the Champions League. However, our team will continue to fight in the second stage of the Champions League, the matches of which will be held on July 26 and August 2.


Tasting Table
July 17 2018
Itch (Armenian Bulgur Salad)

This Armenian Bulgur Salad Will Take Quinoa's Place as Your Go-To Side

Despite what the giant wood hearth at the center of the dining room might suggest, one of the best things on the menu at Maydan, D.C.'s hit restaurant, is an Armenian bulgur wheat salad known as itch. Chefs Gerald Addison and Chris Morgan first discovered the dish—a hearty, flavor-packed salad with pomegranate molasses and added crunch from raw scallions and shishito peppers—on a trip to Beirut. If you can't find red pepper paste, you can purée a jar of drained piquillo peppers.

Itch Salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus cooling time
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time
Ingredients

3 cups water
Kosher salt, to taste
1½ cups bulgur wheat
¼ cup red pepper paste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons, pomegranate molasses
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups shishito peppers, sliced
1 cup scallions, sliced
Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil with a healthy pinch of salt. Stir in the bulgur, remove from the heat and cover for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bulgur is cooked through. Spread the bulgur onto a cookie sheet and allow to cool.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the red pepper and tomato pastes, the pomegranate molasses, extra-virgin olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and lemon juice.
3. Place the cooled bulgur into a large mixing bowl and toss with the dressing, shishito peppers and almost all of the scallions. Season with additional salt. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with the remaining scallions and serve.