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.’ 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

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