Saturday, 8 December 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Spitak earthquake, lessons learned

Arminfo, Armenia
Dec 3 2018
A Round Table "30 years of the Spitak earthquake: history, experience and lessons of the tragedy'' took place in Yerevan
Tatevik Shahunyan. 

The Round Table ''30 years of Spitak earthquake: history, experience and lessons of the tragedy'' took place in the Scientific and Educational Center "Noravank" Director of Noravank Foundation with the participation of senior diplomats from the embassies of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in Armenia, representatives of the 102nd Russian base expert and social circles. 

As a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, member of the Eurasian Expert Club Armen Manvelyan, noted in his report, the Spitak earthquake of 1988 was one of the tragic pages in the history of the Armenianpeople. "As a result of this earthquake, the entire north of the Republic was completely destroyed. The earthquake took the lives of more than 25 thousand people, 19 thousand became disabled, half a million people were left homeless, partially or completely destroyed 21 cities and urban-type settlements, 324 villages, city Spitak leveled off the ground, 80% of the housing stock of the city of Leninakan was destroyed, 230 industrial facilities were out of order, Armenia lost 52% of its economic potential, "he said.

According to him, people from all over the world rushed to help surviving the tragedy of Armenia - 113 countries of the world provided assistance, including many European states. Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, France, Germany, Switzerland and other countries provided rescue equipment, food and medicine. "Numerous international organizations and communities also participated in rendering assistance to Armenia. Assistance on planes, trains, columns of cars, etc. began to arrive in Armenia from different countries of the world," the expert concluded.

In turn, Lilit Asoyan, Cand. Sc., associate professor at Shirak State University, noted that the power and consequences of this catastrophic earthquake later in the press will be compared with the explosion of ten atomic bombs. "In terms of the scale of destruction, the earthquake covered almost half of the republic's area. According to official data, 25 thousand people died (according to open sources up to 60 thousand), 140 thousand became disabled, and 514 thousand people lost their homes. The entire industrial complex was put out of operation - 230 industrial enterprises (about 40%), housing stock - almost 90% ", - she said.

According to her, the tragedy of Armenia shook the whole world. "Offers of help began to arrive literally from the first hours after the disaster. Doctors and rescuers from France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Germany, and the USA arrived in the affected republic. At the airports of Yerevan and Leninakan, planes landed with a cargo of medicines, donated blood, medical equipment, clothing and food supplies from Italy, Japan, China and other countries. Help came from 113 countries from all continents. Even from those countries with which the USSR did not have diplomatic relations - Israel, South Korea, Chile and South Africa. Compassion for the people Political disagreements and differences overcame Armenia.World- famous mother Teresa launched extensive charitable activities in Armenia, during this bitter time, the people of Armenia felt the support of their compatriots living in all parts of the world with particular force.

A week after the disaster, the French singer of Armenian origin, Charles Aznavour, established the ''Aznavour for Armenia'' charity foundation to raise funds to help his historic homeland. He collected 6 million dollars for his countrymen. The famous Armenianbusinessman and philanthropist Alek Manukyan and the American financier, billionaire Kirk (Kirk) Kerkorian provided significant financial assistance. Nikolay Ryzhkov, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR of that period, made an invaluable contribution to earthquake relief. In Armenia, he is still revered as a hero and a great friend of the Armenian people".,concluded Asoyan.

To note, A Round Table was organized by the research and analytical public organization "Integration and Development", the scientific and educational foundation "Noravank" and the Eurasian Expert Club.

Armenian Snap
December 1, 2018
Garen Yegparian

On December 9, the Republic of Armenia will go hold its first “snap” parliamentary elections. The meaning of this may be known to some readers. But, most in the U.S. will not have the intimate knowledge of it that those who live in countries with parliamentary systems have.

Instead of holding an election on a regularly scheduled interval, a snap election happens when a government “falls” – that is for some reason loses support. This took place in the RoA a few weeks ago. It was quite deliberate and coordinated among the four parties currently in the parliament. Given the particulars of the country’s constitution, the prime minister had to resign, two efforts to elect a new PM had to be made by parliament and fail, and those two failures led to the dissolution of parliament and the calling of new elections. Meanwhile, the previous PM continues in a caretaker capacity.

The election formal election period is very short, less than two weeks, but of course all those participating have been preparing for longer than that. Nine parties and two alliances (groupings of smaller parties) are fielding candidates. We are now in the heat of the election.

To get into parliament, a party or alliance must receive at least 5% of the vote. This is where it gets complicated because there are two parallel tracks that parties in the election can and do pursue. Each party or alliance submits a prioritized list of candidates. Depending on how many votes a party/alliance gets, it will be apportioned a corresponding number of seats. Candidates starting with the first one on the party/alliance list will be seated accordingly. Remember that people cast their votes for a party/alliance not a person. That’s the first track. The second track is geographical and individual based. A party/alliance might have multiple candidates in a “marz” (province). These candidates vie not just against other parties/alliances members but also against one another. Whoever wins in that jurisdiction gets into parliament. But the votes they get also count towards their party/alliances overall vote tally in trying to break that 5% threshold and maximize the number of seats in parliament. Removing this “rating” system (as it’s been dubbed) was one of the proposed reforms that failed to pass by just one vote.

So now the election is in full swing. The campaigns are attacking one another and coming up with advertising. Some of the Republican Party’s ads have drawn much derision. Remarks by one of Pashinyan’s cohort about the relative importance of the Spring uprising that toppled Serzh Sarkisian and the liberation of Artsakh have garnered harsh criticism, even from Stepanakert. Of course Pashinyan hit back telling them to stay out of Armenia’s business (a worrisome mindset reflecting a sentiment that sees Artsakhtsees as “others”). In turn, Pashinyan has been criticized by the ARF for favoring the extensive powers granted by the new constitution to the prime minister, since he had opposed them prior to taking office. There’s rich irony on both sides of this last kerfuffle since it is the ARF that spearheaded the major constitutional change that ushered in the parliamentary system now in place, while Pashinyan was among those opposed to the changes.

It’s good to see what looks like a normal election campaign going on with all factions trumpeting their upsides and their opponents’ downsides. Reports of some of the old-style arm twisting using the levers of state by the current regime have been heard.

Given what I’ve read, some of the election chatter I’ve heard, and the last half year’s developments, it seems that Pashinyan will win big. He will do especially well in Yerevan, but less so in areas outside the capital. I won’t hazard a guess as to whether he will be capped by the constitutional requirement that at least one-third of parliament be composed of opposition forces. This is a way of guaranteeing that minority political forces do not become totally excluded from the country’s political discourse.

As to my party’s chances, I think the ARF faces a steep uphill climb in this election. But, it also seems like the most energetic campaign yet is being run by the ARF.

It would be interesting to hear everyone else’s predictions about this election.
November 30 2018
Two new members join Aurora Prize Selection Committee

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative has announced additions to the 2019 Selection Committee for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.

During the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative’s Chronicle of Compassion event in Moscow, co-founder Ruben Vardanyan announced two new additions to the prestigious Selection Committee for the Aurora Prize. Joining the Committee are celebrated human rights advocate and campaigner John Prendergast as well as famed Moscow based conductor and patron of the arts, Valery Gergiev.

At the Chronicle of Compassion event, Ruben Vardanyan said: “It is an honor to welcome two leading international figures to join the Aurora Prize Selection Committee. The Selection Committee is a truly global body representing leading lights of modern humanitarianism and shows that the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative continues to be a beacon during a dark time.

John Prendergast has been a powerful voice and long-time champion of initiatives to prevent genocide in central and east Africa and he brings with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Through his own charitable foundation Valery Gergiev has been an advocate for the power of culture and music to support young gifted musicians as well as organising charity concerts whose proceeds go to those in need. We know both members will bring fresh perspectives and dynamism to their roles.”

John Prendergast is a world renowned human rights activist and founder of the Enough Project, an initiative established to end genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as the Co-Founder with George Clooney of The Sentry, and board member of Not On Our Watch (NOOW). He has worked in and written extensively about pressing issues in Sudan, Darfur, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Valery Gergiev is a widely-respected conductor based in the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. He was a former Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and has performed in over 45 countries around the world. He founded the charitable Valery Gergiev Foundation to support the growth of artistic, social and cultural projects in Russia and promote young gifted performers and musical groups performing classical music

The Aurora Prize Selection Committee includes Nobel Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee; former president of Ireland Mary Robinson; human rights activist Hina Jilani; former foreign minister of Australia and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group Gareth Evans; former president of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo; Médecins Sans Frontières co-founder and former foreign minister of France Bernard Kouchner; Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London Professor Lord Ara Darzi; former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power; President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York Vartan Gregorian; and is co-chaired by Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian George Clooney. The Selection Committee was, until his passing in 2016, co-chaired by Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate, Holocaust survivor and President of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

England: Derby City Council Recognizes Armenian Genocide
(The California Courier)

On Nov 21, 2018, Derby City council became the first city council in England to recognize The Armenian Genocide.

Dr. Ara Nahabedian attended the council meeting and witnessed this historic motion adopted unanimously by the full city council of Derby.

British citizen Russell Pollard proposed the resolution some nineyears ago to the Derby City Council, after visiting Armenia andArtsakh. While visiting Dzidzernagapert, he discovered that the UK does not recognize the Armenian Genocide. He also visited Yerablur, a tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Artsakh war in the 1990s.

“I returned to England, and I felt that Armenia, for me, was
‘unfinished business’—I wanted to visit Artsakh, and so returned the following May. From that point, and during 15 further visits, I met many people in Armenia, in Artsakh, and Armenians in the UK. Some, who will be friends forever, have allowed me to truly understand life in
Armenia and Artsakh. But not as a tourist—something more humanitarian, and more purposeful,” said Pollard in his website

Pollard runs his website in cooperation with Susanna Petrosyan of the Artsakh Youth Development Center (AYDC), which supports Pollard with research; assistance with identifying and meeting contacts; and translation

He began to write articles, created the Artsakh website, gave presentations. And in so doing, he was awarded a medal by the Prime Minister of Artsakh—while being blacklisted by Azerbaijan. “I wanted to tell non-Armenians—I wanted to spread the word about how the people
of Artsakh were and are under continual threat and that this is a legacy of the Armenian Genocide of 1915….and the fact that it remains unrecognized is part of maintaining this genocidal opportunity for Azerbaijan—a close ally of Turkey.”

Pollard lives in Derby, a small city of 250,000 people in the center of England. It has a very diverse population speaking nearly 200 different languages, a great history, and great people—but there is no Armenian community.

In 2015, Pollard spoke about the Armenian Genocide during a Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) commemoration. According to Pollard, the Turkish government had written to the Mayor of Derby prior to the event in order to dissuade him from making this presentation. Pollard remained undeterred and has spoken every year since then at the commemoration about the Armenian Genocide.

Derby City Council is the local government for Derby. It sits directly below the UK Government—it represents the people through 51 elected Councillors. They have the power to make formal resolutions on behalf of the people of the City.

The HMD committee started discussions with the Council to support a Recognition motion earlier this year. “Initially it fell on deaf ears—sometimes with these matters it is about timing—so we waited. A breakthrough was made just a few months ago, and I drafted a motion; it was confirmed that it would be tabled. On November 21, the Full Council unanimously agreed to adopt this motion thus making Derby thefirst City in England to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. It is a proud day for this City that it did so, to make a stand on simple humanitarian grounds.” said Pollard. “Hopefully, in the future, the Armenian world will recognize Derby as a place that did the right thing; a City that held out a hand across the oceans to those people in Armenia, in Artsakh, and throughout the Diaspora…to say, we hear your pain, we see it, we feel it…and we are with you, and stand by
you, and with you!”

AFP & Business Standard
Dec 4 2018
Two dead in Armenia warplane crash: Ministry

Two crew members died in an Armenian warplane crash on Tuesday, the ex-Soviet republic's defence ministry said.
Debris of the SU-25 fighter jet "was found in the mountains near the town of Maralik" in Armenia's western Shirak region, the ministry spokesman Atrsrun Hovhannisyan said in a Facebook post.   

"Two pilots, lieutenant colonel Armen Babayan and major Movses Manukyan, were killed" in the crash, he said.
The aircraft disappeared from radars on Tuesday morning, minutes after it took off for a routine training flight, the ministry had reported earlier.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
Pashinyan doesn’t rule out introduction of some mechanisms of transitional justice for return of money stolen from state
3 December, 2018

The Armenian government has set a task to spend additional 2.5 billion USD to cover the needs of the Armed Forces in the next 5 years, acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at the meeting with the residents of Ararat town on the sidelines of the pre-election campaign, reports Armenpress.

“These 2.5 billion USD must be paid the corporations well known to you. If they do this voluntarily, we all will consider the fact that they have done it on voluntary basis. But it doesn’t mean that this is the whole amount of the stolen money. The most important thing for us is to be able to objectively assess how much money has been robbed and how much money must be returned. It’s not an easy work, but I hope we all will have a patience to properly do this job”, the acting PM said.

Pashinyan said there is a key point in the pre-election program of My Step alliance according to which there shouldn’t be political prisoners in Armenia ever. “In order for anyone not to be considered as a political prisoner, no illegality should take place against anyone, no one should be prosecuted on ungrounded basis. This is very important, but in order for the criminal cases to be well-grounded, they need to pass by the procedures prescribed by law. And of course, the new parliament, which is going to have the people’s trust vote, can make certain legislative changes. I have said that it is very probable that we introduce some elements of transitional justice which will envisage all these opportunities”, he said.

The acting PM noted that they must be able to develop ready resolutions on what actions need to be taken in cases, when, for instance, someone has been presented to the investigative body and announces that he has made abuses, robbed money and is ready to return it. “This is a very important issue which we need to discuss in the parliament in the future. And of course, the public should also participate in this discussion because on the one hand we see that the public puts a demand before us to be more effective in the anti-corruption fight, but on the other hand the legal procedures in most cases do not enable us to be quick enough and solve the issues with the pace desirable for the public”, Nikol Pashinyan said.

Early parliamentary elections in Armenia will take place on December 9. The election campaign launched on November 26 and will end on December 7. 11 political forces are participating in the elections.

Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Lawmaker Accused Of Bribery
December 03, 2018

Law-enforcement authorities on Monday moved to arrest on corruption charges a member of Armenia’s outgoing parliament representing former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).

Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said that the lawmaker, Aram Harutiunian, received $14 million in bribes when he served as minister of environment protection from 2007-2014. It said a businesswoman, Silva Hambardzumian, paid the money in 2008 in return for obtaining a dozen mining licenses from Harutiunian’s ministry.

Hambardzumian likewise claimed to have bribed Harutiunian through several intermediaries close to him when she spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service 
( in late October. She said that the mining licenses were subsequently revoked and that she never got her money back.

The former minister has not yet publicly commented on the allegations.

A statement by the prosecutors said four other individuals, presumably close to Harutiunian, have already been charged in the corruption case. Two of them are currently on the run, it said without giving any names.

The statement added that investigators hope the parliament will allow them to charge and arrest Harutiunian.

The National Assembly is scheduled to discuss the prosecutors’ motion on Tuesday. With many of its members currently campaigning for reelection in the 
December 9 polls, it is not clear whether the 101-seat parliament will make a quorum. Besides, its largest faction is controlled by the HHK.

The HHK’s deputy chairman, Armen Ashotian, denounced the criminal proceedings as politically motivated “selective justice” and a pre-election “dirty ploy” by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Ashotian said that they were deliberately timed to coincide with the election campaign. The authorities could have easily waited until the outgoing parliament’s tenure expires on December 24, he said.

Ashotian went on to claim that Pashinian is thereby trying to reverse a drop in his approval ratings. “Nikol Pashinian’s approval rating is falling because the HHK is opening people’s eyes,” he said in a live Facebook transmission. “The HHK is reminding you, dear compatriots, of promises not kept by Pashinian. This is what has made Pashinian jittery.”

Pashinian denied, however, any connection between the parliamentary race and the criminal case against the HHK parliamentarian. He said that investigators needed more than three months to obtain from an unspecified foreign government documentary evidence of cash transfers made to Harutiunian’s offshore bank accounts.

Speaking at a campaign rally, the premier said he therefore hopes that the parliament will give the green light to Harutiunian’s prosecution.But he also stressed that their failure to do so would only briefly delay his arrest.

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