Monday, 31 December 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... 8 editorials

Egyptian singer Hamza Namira has performed the song “Nazani” by Sayat-Nova at Trafalgar Square in London. 
24 Dec 18

An amazing website showing the churches around the Akhourian River (border of Armenia & Turkey). Text is in French.

On Saturday December 15, in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, several peaceful Armenian protesters were subjected to bullying and physical violence at the hands of Catholicos Garegin II’s body guards, corrupt members of clergy, other loyalists and thugs.

According to several eyewitnesses and media reports in Armenia, The ‘defenders’ of Garegin II hurled eggs, sewer liquid and animal waste at protesters under the watchful eyes of local police force which was only ‘capable’ of serving as a human wall between the peaceful protesters and pro-Garegin II thugs. 

Watch the YouTube video at 

Panorama, Armenia
Dec 29 2018
Artsakh reports more Azerbaijani ceasefire violations over past week

The Azerbaijani armed forces violated the ceasefire along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact more than 150 times in the past week.

In the period from December 23 to 29, the adversary fired around 1,500 shots towards the Armenian defense positions from firearms of different calibres, the Artsakh Defense Ministry told

The Defense Army’s frontline troops keep the situation in the contact line under full control, confidently fulfilling their military tasks.
More than 80% of citizens approve post-revolution changes in Yerevan police work
27 December, 2018

81,1% of surveyed Yerevan citizens approve the changes that took place within the city’s police system.

GALLUP International Association asked citizens of Yerevan how they assess the changes of the work of the police after the revolution. 28,9% said “completely positive”, 52,2% more positive, while 4,8% said nothing has changed, and 3,5% gave a completely negative answer.

The poll was conducted among 602 people from December 20 to December 25.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

TASS, Russia
Dec 27 2018
Putin expects Russian-Armenian trade to continue growing
The growth amounts to 17.5% in the first ten months of the year, the president recalled

Trade between Russia and Armenia has been growing, there is a need to maintain this trend and boost cooperation in other areas, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

"Our relations don’t need to be described: these are truly alliance ties filled with significant content," the Russian leader said. He pointed out that Russia was Armenia’s largest economic partner, while bilateral trade had increased by 30% in 2017.

"It [trade] grew by another 17.5% in the first ten months of the year. It is a positive trend that needs to be maintained," Putin noted. According to him, Moscow is ready to make every possible effort to keep relations with Yerevan at the current high level not only in the field of economy but in other areas as well, including the security sector.

"All in all, we have a very heavy agenda," Putin stressed.

He pointed out that it was the Armenian leader’s first visit to Russia after his bloc had won the December 9parliamentary election. "I would like to wish you success in implementing the plans you have made for yourself and your team for the sake of Armenia and its people," Putin said, addressing Pashinyan.

On December 9, Armenia held snap parliamentary elections. The My Step bloc headed by Pashinyan won the race with 70.43% of the vote.

Arminfo, Armenia
Dec 27 2018
Ani Mshetsyan
In Syunik, Gegharkunik and Aragatsotn regions, around-the-clock  emergency centers will be established to assist people during the  snowstorm.

On December 27 by the order of. Minister of Emergency Situations of Armenia Feliks Tsolakyan, around the clock strongholds will be established in  Syunik, Gegharkunik and Aragatsotn regions to assist people during  the blizzards.  

According to the press service of the Ministry of  Emergency Situations, strong points are needed to transport people  and vehicles to a safe place and provide first aid during a snowstorm  on the highway. At the mobile strongholds will be on duty 5 safes.

It was decided to set up tents in the most dangerous areas. In the  event of a complication of the operational situation, the territorial  units of the Rescue Service will cooperate with road construction and  repair organizations to provide the necessary assistance to citizens.  In the tents there is hot drink and food, as well as all the  conditions for the provision of first aid.

To note, earlier, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Armenia  warned that on December 27 in the Shirak, Lori regions, in the  mountain regions of Aragatsotn and Kotayk precipitations are expected  in the form of snow, blizzard, low horizontal visibility, and ice  slicks on highways.
More than $38 million to be invested in Armenia’s airports
 27 December, 2018

The government of Armenia has approved the 2018-2022 master plan of Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport and Gyumri’s Shirak airport.

Caretaker minister of transportation, communication and IT Hakob Arshakyan said at the Cabinet meeting that the master plan gets updated once every five years in accordance to the contract.

The plan envisages nearly 38,2 million dollars investments that will result in ensuring ICAO standards, reach IATA service C level, improve security and conform with new international standards.

A 2800 meter-long section of the Zvartnots airport’s runway will be renovated, among others.

Reconstruction will also take place in Shirak airport, which will enable to ensure conditions for the operations of Airbus A-320 and Boeing B 757-200.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

What it takes to make a new element
By Kit Chapman30 November 2016

Yuri Oganessian has a chemical named after him because of his research.

He tells us how Nihonium, Moscovium, Tennessine and Oganesson were made, and why they could spell the end of the periodic table.

Belfast Telegraph, UK
Dec 29 2018
Thirty years ago veteran NI firefighter Paul Burns was battling to find survivors of Armenia’s earthquake in temperatures of minus 25... now he’s made an emotional return visit to the scene of a disaster he’ll never forget

The 75-year-old who now lives in Groomsport tells Mark Bain about his heroic career and coping with the emotional fall-out of being an eyewitness to horror

On December 7, 1988 a devastating earthquake hit the then-USSR state of Armenia, killing more than 25,000 people. Five days later, Belfast firefighter Paul Burns found himself in the Armenian city of Spitak as one of the first western aid volunteers to arrive behind the Iron Curtain as the Cold War drew to a close. 

It was the era of Mikhail Gorbachev, glasnost and perestroika, and for the first time the Soviet Union reached out to the rest of the world for help.

At the time, Paul was divisional officer with the Lancashire Fire Service, and he spent two weeks in the devastated country leading the UK response.

During his career Paul was called on to fly out to crisis zones all around the globe; his first was a major earthquake in Italy in 1980, and he was also working amid the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in the USA which killed 168 people.

Now back home in Northern Ireland - he lives in Groomsport - and reflecting on his career, he says that it was the Armenian earthquake that made the most lasting impression. Indeed, earlier this month Paul felt compelled to return to Spitak and see what changes the intervening 30 years had wrought on the city.

"I'm an old man now but I promised myself I would go back," he says. "The earthquake had obliterated the place. The people found it quite extraordinary that we would come from the West into Soviet territory to give aid. They just couldn't comprehend that. We were, they were told, the enemy. But that drove us forward. We were doing something extraordinary at the end of the Cold War.

"Politically, it was important. This was our meagre contribution.

"When I arrived in the city of Spitak there were no buildings left, just rubble as far as the eye could see. There was the beauty of the mountains, the sun glinting on the snow, but when you cast your eyes down you'd see this horrible picture of fires and smoke rising, some people picking around here and there to find memorabilia from families and homes, a sense of aimlessness. There seemed no future."
In a city swelled by 10,000 refugees amid civil unrest rife across the Soviet Union to more 35,000 inhabitants, more than half the residents were killed in the earthquake.

Paul recalls: "Women and men would regularly come up to me and produce photographs of their family. They would tug at my uniform and I knew they wanted me to come. They would bring me to somewhere that was absolutely flat and point to where their family was. A lot of the time there was simply nothing that could be done.

"You were praying for the retrieval of someone alive, not for the glory of it but simply because of what a miracle would do for a family somewhere. But it was a recovery operation. In those temperatures you would freeze to death. From a practical point of view all we could do was retrieve bodies."

One incident in particular has stayed with Paul.
"There was a man who'd been working in his butcher's shop," he recalls. "We found him entombed in very heavy concrete columns. The family were insistent, no matter what, that we were to recover as much of the remains as possible. I gave orders that the man was to be retrieved in as dignified a manner as possible, but in the end that wasn't possible. His remains had to be removed in large parts and that's an extraordinary thing to have to do. I'd never done it in my career before and never have since. The job of removing that man was horrific."

That gruesome task fell to fellow firefighter Reggie Berry (now 69) who accompanied Paul back to Spitak on the 30th anniversary. 

Mr Berry told a BBC Radio 4 documentary: "I remember what I did and excuse me for speaking bluntly, we simply couldn't get his lower body out. I cut him in half at the waist with a shovel. His relatives were extremely grateful as all they wanted was to give him a Christian burial. People were coming over and shaking our hands, thanking us. But all I could think was I've just cut your grandfather in half with a shovel."
Paul continues: "We were all agreed that, particularly as it was Christmas time, if we could simply return a loved one there could be no finer work than that."

But the conditions Paul was working in during his two weeks in Spitak were almost impossible.

"I'd already been to an earthquake in Italy and was one of the few officers in the UK with experience. It's something I'd always taken a great interest in. So when I got a call from the leader of Lancashire Council, now Dame Louise Ellman MP, I said yes. I've always lived my life thinking the chance of adventure was not something to turn away from. It was a very quick response, particularly to go the 10,000 miles into the Soviet Union at that time."

Paul started his firefighting life in Lisburn as a raw recruit in 1961, moving on to Chichester Street in Belfast where he spent five years. His family were originally from the Falls Road area of Belfast but had relocated to Lurgan after the Blitz during the Second World War. Paul was one of only a handful of Catholic boys in the Fire Service when he joined.

"That was never something that bothered me," he says. "There are much more important things in life than where you're from. Humanity was my focus, and rescuing humanity became my skill.

"Some might remember my family, they ran a shipping fleet and brought tug boats to Belfast long before the Titanic."

After marrying a Lancastrian girl, sadly now passed away, he headed off to the north of England where he brought up his family - a son now living in Florida and a daughter in the RAF; he takes great pride in being a grandfather of five - and rapidly rose through the ranks of the service. But nothing had prepared him for what awaited in Armenia.

"I learnt a lot of the craft in Belfast during those early years from guys who deserve a lot more credit for the role they fulfilled. I'd always been interested in rapid response and I had my experience in Italy but the Soviet Union was something entirely different.

"It was astounding. There had been four colossal quakes within a minute of each other and you can still see the uplift of the land, about a metre and a half. That's an astonishing amount. The buildings had simply toppled into one another, then there'd been liquification of the earth - that's when the quake is so violent it releases the moisture in the soil and causes landslides.

"As it happened during daylight hours, I knew everyone would have been out and about and knew where people would most likely have been. That's important when locating potential survivors. But we arrived five days later, too late for too many.

"I remember walking down towards the town centre in two feet of snow. It was -25C. I paused for a moment in the early morning. There was a beautiful red blush of sunrise on the mountains around me. But below there was rubble. The snow was brown as storage tanks of molasses had burst across the town. It was a horrific scene. Way beyond anything Hollywood movies had created.

"A cardinal rule for rescue services is that you don't become a casualty yourself, but we were working in an unstable landscape. There were more than 200 after-quakes. The Soviet army were all around us and for the first few days we were stopped everywhere we went and asked to show our papers. Eventually they got to know us and we were free to go about our jobs, but it was a scary place to be.

"You really don't know until much later what the impact on the individual is. There's a real mental and emotional exhaustion that sets in. You can see it in a person. I saw it in many I worked with and that's why I made the decision to head home for Christmas Day. I knew some of the people returning with me would never be the same after the brutality they witnessed, but we were there to provide some human warmth and that's what mattered."

Paul was back in Spitak 18 months later on another humanitarian mission - this time to deliver and build three new homes which had been bought by the Armenian community of Manchester, and he made further trips in the 1990s, until his retirement in 1997.

On returning this month Paul was greeted by Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, who told him: "The United Kingdom provided great assistance by sending rescuers. These are actions which Armenia will never forget."

President Sarkissian also presented Paul with an Armenian memorial coin and added: "What he did for Armenia during those difficult days will never be forgotten."

Paul says: "I look around now and I see new buildings, low-rise residential places, none of them more than five floors. Lessons have been learned, but the town is a lot smaller than it was."

Though many of the buildings may be new, Paul was amazed to see the temporary homes that he had built 28 years ago were still standing.
"They were flat pack timber homes, completely glazed, sectionalised and kitted out inside," he explains. "They were advanced for the time and were built in 14 days back in 1989, but they were only supposed to be temporary.

"The community in Spitak presented them to three school teachers as they value education so highly, but today 500 families are still essentially homeless in the town. On the one hand you're happy that what you created is still standing, but on the other you'd like to see that the town and the community have moved on.

"The spectre of the earthquake is never far away. The town hasn't changed as much as I would have liked to have seen it do so. People are still struggling in the post-Soviet era 30 years down the line."

Despite the disappointment, Paul's visit gifted him an uplifting moment in the shape of resident Hamlet Dilbaryan (80). The former school worker, who lives in a metal ship container, and has done since the 1988 earthquake, came out to give Paul a warm greeting.

Clearly moved by the encounter, Paul says: "He lost his mother, wife, daughter and son in the earthquake. From his metal box he looks out through barred windows over the last remaining pile of rubble, the site of the old school where 14 children were killed that day. But he told me there are many other families worse off than him, families looking after the disabled with nowhere to live who deserve a house before him. After 30 years, there's a man who has the dignity to say that he doesn't want to ask for assistance; he is an extraordinary, courageous man.

"We came here as human beings, 10,000 miles at short notice to a people we could hardly identify with. They needed assistance from the world and the world sent the likes of me. That was the greatest privilege."

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