Monthly Archives: December 2009

Russia Stops Gas Supplies to Armenia

This just in from BBC News:

Russia has temporarily halted gas supplies to Armenia after an explosive device was found near a pipeline, Russian news reports say.

A security official said exports via North Ossetia and Ingushetia were stopped and would not resume until the device was defused, Interfax reported.

Supplies to Georgia were not affected, a spokeswoman for Georgia’s Oil and Gas Corporation said.

The Ingushetia region has been the focus of attacks by Islamist rebels.

Militants have been battling pro-Kremlin authorities and Russian security forces in a low-level insurgency in Ingushetia and the Caucasus region for years.

Armenia receives about two billion cubic metres of gas a year from Russia via Georgia.

It is not known who was behind the planting of the device on the pipeline.

Editor of ‘Hetq’ Wins Award

Edik Baghdasaryan, the editor of Hetq Online (which sponsors this blog) and the president of the Investigative Journalists of Armenia was honored with the “Defender of Armenia Freedom” award by US Ambassador to Armenia Marie L. Yovanovitch. The award ceremony was held at the US Embassy.

The ambassador noted that “Due to the unprecedented work of Edik Baghdasaryan, it has been possible to uncover cases of corruption, human rights violations and human trafficking, today’s version of slavery.”

Here are excerpts of Edik’s speech:

…it is extremely difficult to sit and ponder the fact that people are being persecuted and arrested in your own country merely for their political convictions, when you reflect that 30% of children are malnourished and go to bed hungry. I would really like to underline this last matter and urge our NGO’s to pay specific attention to the plight of the children. I would go so far to say that child malnourishment is the biggest challenge facing Armenia today. As proof, let me just point out that 40% of all army conscripts have some sort of malady. These kids are the ones going without.

Sadly, in Armenia today, the same situation holds true when it comes to other rights as well, starting from environmental rights to the right to a decent education. I never blame society for the state of affairs. It is those higher up the ladder that I hold accountable since there are some problems that could be resolved in an hour with the stroke of a pen. There are many such problems awaiting such resolution. The authorities must possess the political will to act in order to change and reform the situation as quickly as possible […].

Congratulations to Edik for this honor. He is the hardest working person I personally know in Armenia who is fighting for the basic human rights of all Armenian citizens by reporting on the injustices that ordinary people face in their day-to-day lives.

Armenian Big Shots Aren’t Donating This Year

Hetq recently reported that several business tycoons/oligarchs have not donated to the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund this year. The money is slated to go towards restructuring projects in Shushi, located in Nagorno-Karabagh. Apparently Armenia’s wealthiest don’t care about rejuvenating  their country anymore.

Here’s what the article revealed:

At a press conference today, All Armenia Fund Director Ara Vardanyan disclosed the names of some famous Armenian politicians who did, or did not contribute, to this year’s Telethon. Mr. Vardanyan noted that former RoA President Robert Kocharyan, as in years past, had pledged an amount equal to one month of his salary. He failed to note the amount, however. The former president’s son, Sedrak Kocharyan, is said to have donated 1 million AMD.

Regarding the contribution made by current RoA President Serzh Sargsyan, Mr. Vardanyan noted that the amount was included in the $8,100 pledged by the presidential staff office. Again, Mr. Vardanyan stated that he didn’t know the exact amount. He did say that Sashik Sargsyan, the president’s brother, had not made a pledge this year.

Mr. Vardanyan stated that there was no pledge from businessman Gagik Tsarukyan this year. He had pledged $2 million in 2008. “I haven’t talked to Mr. Tsarukyan yet, so there’s sa chance he will make a donation as well,” Mr. Vardanyan noted.

Levon Ter-Petrosyan, the RoA’s first president was also noted as not having made a pledge to this year’s Telethon.

Um, former Armenian president Robert Kocharian is from Karabagh, and as anyone who follows Armenian politics knows he was the president of the self-declared independent republic in the 1990s. He is known to have a stake in Vivacell, which is likely the most popular cellular telecommunications provider in Armenia. His son is the reputed exclusive importer of Toyota passenger vehicles–virtually all police cars cruising Armenia’s roads have been upgraded to Corollas. He also purportedly is the official reseller of Nokia mobile devices, and they don’t come cheap. Kocharian senior is officially making an estimated 320,000 dram ($831) monthly salary, which is the amount he donated. How generous of him.

Presdient Sarkisian as everyone knows is also from Karabagh, and he has considerable business ventures of his own, as do his brothers not only in Armenia but in the US as well. You’d think they would have a significant sum of money to donate towards rebuilding Shushi, which is so sacred to Armenians as a cultural center. Obviously not.

Levon Ter-Petrossian led the Karabagh Committee in the late 1980s and started the movement for self-determination of Armenians living there. As a result he was elected the first president of the Armenian republic. Why the hell isn’t he donating anything?

Armenia’s most user-friendly and congenial oligarch Gagik Tsarukian, who owns everything bearing the “Multi” name from sour cream to cement, has been investing in Bulgaria of all places. Seems like he’s making preparations for the worst case scenario by diversifying his capital, whatever he thinks that is.

RFE/RL also revealed some interesting information in an article that was published on Wednesday. It had me fuming after I finished reading it. It shows how cheap, how utterly unpatriotic these oligarchs are.

I can’t believe for a second that the world financial crisis is to blame for their refraining from making generous donations. The crisis in the Armenian financial sector has been played up to the hilt. Along with the $1.6 billion cash influx in emergency loans is a significant rise in luxury vehicles, swanky restaurants and yes, new construction projects for “elite” apartment buildings.

These guys have plenty of cash. Why do they refuse to build up Shushi? It’s on historic Armenian land, and Armenians lost thousands of lives to call it their own. Shushi as anyone who has traveled there knows is in a pitiful state, with no industry, poor infrastructure and no job opportunities. Less than 5,000 people are estimated to be living there now.  What will $15.8 million in donations really accomplish there?

Swine Flu Scare in Armenia

signs and symptomsUPDATED: Seems that the AH1N1 virus, infamously known as the “swine flu” has been frightening Armenians so much that the Ministry of Education decided to close all schools for two weeks. Apparently 49 cases of the virus have been registered nationwide.

People have been wearing masks all around town from what I’ve heard—I saw some women with masks on shopping in the Gomidas market last week. All Tamiflu supplies in the country have already been snapped up by paranoid Armenians who are overly (and needlessly I should add) concerned about contracting the virus. Despite the hype, out of 4,100,000 reported cases worldwide (confirmed and probable) purportedly only an estimated 9,300 people have died from the virus since last spring. And those who are seriously suffering from the virus by and large have compromised immune systems. If you aren’t sick to begin with, it’s unlikely that the AH1N1 virus will have any debilitating effects on you—this has been documented.

So why are healthy Armenians freaking out? Most likely due to a lack of information provided by the Ministry of Health. If the ministry was properly notifying people about the low risks associated with the virus in general, people would not be so paranoid about contracting it and dying from it. It’s all about education, and sadly, the Ministry of Health has a poor record of not only keeping the state healthcare system up to par, it also does not properly inform Armenian citizens about these types of situations.

Although more Tamiflu doses are apparently on the way, the government has to do a better job of rationing them (which as far as I have surmised they haven’t been doing at all). As soon as Tamiflu hits pharmacies, it’s snapped up. You don’t need a doctor’s prescription to buy medications in Armenia.

I for one am not concerned about the swine flu in the slightest. I don’t anticipate catching an common flu virus and even if I do catch one, I’m not sick to begin with and have no reason to become gravely ill. I’m confident the same holds true for the majority of Armenians. Too bad they’re clueless.

December 15 update: Seems I was wrong. Two deaths from the AH1N1 virus have been reported as of December 14.

Latest News In Karabagh Peace Negotiations

Latest News In Karabagh Peace NegotiationsYesterday RFE/RL reported that the foreign minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, made a public statement in which he underlined Baku’s stance on the future of Nagorno-Karabagh. Azerbaijan demands that the self-declared republic be returned to their control, 15 years after the cease fire.

Here are excerpts from the article:

Azerbaijan insists on the restoration of its control over Nagorno-Karabakh despite accepting peoples’ right to self-determination as one of the core principles for resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov indicated on Wednesday.
“Providing self-governance for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan will be a just and durable solution, and it can dramatically reduce tensions and challenges for peace and stability in the region,” Mammadyarov said in a speech at a ministerial conference in Athens of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Um, that would essentially revive the autonomous status that the region had during Soviet times, the same status that was imposed on it in the 1920s. In other words, in such an agreement Armenia would essentially be reneging on the victories of the people of Nagorno-Karabagh and their struggles to earn self-determination/independence. Everything would revert to the way things were. It would be as if the war was fought for nothing.

The article goes on to explain that:

Speaking at the OSCE forum later in the day, Nalbandian accused Mammadyarov of seeking to “distort” the essence of the Karabakh dispute and international efforts to resolve it. That, he said, is hampering further progress in the peace process.

Still, both ministers noted that the parties have moved closer to hammering out a compromise peace accord. “I should admit that there are positive dynamics in the latest talks and both sides together with the Minsk Group Co-chairs agreed to intensify negotiations,” said Mammadyarov.

The OSCE Minsk Group released the following statement on December 1:

“The Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of France Bernard Kouchner, and Deputy Secretary of State of the United States James Steinberg met in Athens on December 1 with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov and Foreign Minister of Armenia Edward Nalbandian.

The five Heads of Delegation recalled the commitments in the November 2008 Moscow Declaration and the December 2008 Helsinki OSCE Ministerial Statement. They noted the positive dynamic in the talks, demonstrated through six meetings this year between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. They agreed that the increasing frequency of these meetings has significantly contributed to an enhanced dialogue between the parties and forward movement toward finalizing the Basic Principles for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, proposed in Madrid on November 29, 2007.

Foreign Ministers Lavrov and Kouchner and Deputy Secretary Steinberg reiterated the commitment of their countries, as expressed in the Joint Statement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the L’Aquila Summit of the Eight on July 10, issued by their three Presidents, to support the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as they complete work on the Basic Principles and urged that the parties complete this work as soon as possible. They stressed that agreement on the Basic Principles would provide the framework for a comprehensive settlement to promote a future of peace, stability, and prosperity for the entire region.

The Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan reported on progress during the course of this year in achieving common understandings on points of the Basic Principles. They stated the willingness of their countries to complete work on the Basic Principles, as stipulated by the Presidents of the Co-Chair countries at L’Aquila. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work intensively to resolve the remaining issues, to reach an agreement based, in particular, upon the principles of the Helsinki Final Act of Non-Use of Force or Threat of Force, Territorial Integrity, and the Equal Rights and Self-Determination of Peoples.”

I would like to know what the hell Prime Minister Nalbandian has been doing during these recent talks. How could he possibly admit that “progress” has been made in reaching a peace deal? The negotiations are moving backward, not forward. The proposals being laid on the table are unacceptable, even absurd for the Armenian side to accept. Why is Nalbandian continuing to entertain his Azerbaijani counterpart and the Minsk Group and any longer, what is the point in all of this? Why is President Sarkisian–who is a native of Nagorno-Karabagh–swallowing these proposals as being acceptable? From what has been revealed by the press, there are only a few minor things that need to be ironed out for the Madrid Principles to become a reality. I would love to know what they are.

There is no point for the Armenian side to continue the negotiations. The Minsk Group has always shamelessly ignored the leadership of Nagorno-Karabagh as being a legitimate party to the peace process. By agreeing to continue negotiations despite these comments by Mammadyarov and President Aliyev’s repeated bellicose statements that Nagorno-Karabagh would be won by force if necessary (most recently reiterated after his pointless meeting with President Sarkisian on November 23 in Munich), Armenia is digging a deeper hole for itself that it will have difficulty surviving in.

In the meantinme, Turkey is breathing down Armenia’s neck by insisting that an opened border would be contingent upon a swift resolution to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict. Armenia was hoping that trade would begin directly across the border by next spring, which obviously means something needs to be signed fast.

Why is Armenia playing these games? Is Yerevan indeed ready to go through with this or is it simply expressing a willingness to cooperate, while playing the waiting game for Baku to back out of the negotiations as it has time and time again in the past? Does Yerevan really believe that Baku would not dare to resume the war? What’s to stop it from doing so?

These are dangerous times for Armenia. Why don’t people wake up?