2021 February 18

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Daily news wrap-up

Feb/18/2021: (1) Seismic standards revised. Housing stats (2) ex-Yerevan & Meghri mayors charged w/land theft (3) Key trial witness dies (4) Who gets free vaccines? (5) Total wounded during war (6) Artsakh housing construction stats (7) GEO-RUS second road (8) More aid for HayPost, refugees (9) Dipl
by ar_david_hh


Your 12-minute Thursday report in 2907 words.

Anti-corruption: ex-Yerevan mayor Taron, HHK MP's son, and others are charged with stealing school land

Investigators said: the suspects are the former Yerevan mayor Taron Margaryan, the former head of State Property Management Department Arman Sahakyan (prominent HHK MP's son), former Yerevan's urban development chief Andranik Qasaryan, and Yerevan property management official Arsen Amyan.

Taron Margaryan served as Yerevan's deputy-mayor then as a mayor between 2009-2018 and was tasked with protecting geodetic points and boundaries. He abused his powers between 2011-2014.

Taron decided to take lands from Yerevan schools for personal use by him and his family. He launched a school boundary clarification process and instructed subordinates to draw a new school land plan.

3569 m2 land was separated from a property on Acharyan St, and given to his relatives at a very low price after an "auction".

Then a 575m2 was taken from a property on Avanesov St. and similarly given to Taron Margaryan's family friend. Additional 863m2 was stolen two years later.

Taron Margaryan and the aforementioned officials are charged with felony 308.2 (abuse of power).

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043863.html

Tags: #TaronMargaryan

ex-Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetyan, a key witness in Serj trial, dies

Sergo died from COVID complications at the age of 72, confirms the hospital. He was going through felony trials, one of which was related to Serj Sargsyan's alleged embezzlement of ֏0.5B in agricultural fuel aid. The media reported earlier that Sergo was a key witness who testified against Serj.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043779.html

https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/emwkqe/jan102020_daily_anticorruption_news_summary_stay/ , https://www.azatutyun.am/a/30810419.html , https://armtimes.com/hy/article/177729

COVID stats

3211 tested. 223 infected (+4 in Artsakh). 101 healed. 1 death. 4293 active.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043781.html , https://factor.am/339767.html

rumors & rebuttals: COVID tests at the airport

Healthcare Minister says a negative COVID test is necessary before the arrival to ensure visitors don't bring and spread COVID, and that it has nothing to do with promoting businesses that run those COVID tests. "Testing isn't free but it's needed to prevent the spread and return to normal life." She said it in response to questions about a COVID-testing conspiracy theory on social media.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043816.html

who will get free COVID vaccines?

Armenia is working with COVAX global initiative to purchase AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Sputnik-V. Just as in the case of COVID tests, the vaccines will be free for the "high risk" population only. Others will have to pay.

High-risk groups are the elderly, nursing home staff, doctors, social services staff, anyone with chronic illness.

https://www.civilnet.am/news/2021/02/18/Ռիսկային-խմբից-դուրս-անձանց-կորոնավիրուսի-դեմ-պատվաստումը-կլինի-վճարովի․-նախարար/419859

Anti-corruption: financial and land shenanigans busted in Meghri

Investigators said: in May-7-2020 we launched a felony investigation over improper management of lands belonging to Syunik's Agarak municipality. It turns out, a resident of Agarak won a 0.2-hectare land auction in 2007, for only $34/year for 25 years.

It was then sub-leased to a telecom company for a much higher $1,144/year. The telecom built a cell tower without permission.

The 2008 mayor of Agarak, who was also Meghri mayor in 2016, knew about the illegal use of this land, but instead of canceling the contract, he began charging $572/year.

Meghri mayor is charged with causing ֏3.7M in damages to the state. He was released after posting ֏4M bail.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043801.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/207028

total number of wounded and dead during the war

Defense Ministry and Prosecutors released 2020 stats about deaths/injuries. It includes the war stats.

9094 people were injured with various severities. 3389 bodies were identified by the end of 2020 (this process continues).

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043836.html

total number of buildings damaged during the war / reconstruction progress

6943 damaged in total. 4435 in capital Stepanakert. 250 in Askeran. 1300 in Martuni. 658 in Martakert.

600 are being renovated in Stenapakert; 270 finished. 50 in Askeran; 20 finished. 210 in Martuni; 72 finished. 46 in Martakert; 7 finished.

Overall, 930 buildings are being renovated in Artsakh right now. Another 2630 were renovated earlier with new windows and doors. 1915 residents received free construction materials.

23 buildings were completely destroyed: 17 in Martuni and 5 in Askeran. Reconstruction plans are ready.

1,500 rapid-deployment housing will be built this year.

112 construction companies take part in reconstruction.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043859.html

Russian sappers neutralize 400 explosives in Karmir Shuka, Artsakh

To this date, they cleared 1419 hectares of land, 443km of roads, 1361 buildings, from 24.5K explosives.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043785.html

diplomatic news

Presidents of Turkey and Russia discussed the Artsakh conflict.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043854.html

Russian MFA: the situation remains stable in Karabakh. No ceasefire violation incidents. Peacekeepers continue to guard the area and clear it from explosives.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043860.html

aid package for HayPost post office

For 13 years, HayPost was under the management of prominent Armenian-Argentinian businessman-donor Eduardo Ernekyan. The contract was set to expire in 2016. The government decided to sell/privatize HayPost 1.5 years before the 2016 deadline while keeping Ernekyan's status.

Pashinyan administration canceled the privatization process and assigned the High Tech Ministry to manage HayPost. The Ministry launched various programs to turn HayPost into financial/services/tech hub in rural areas.

High Tech Ministry recently drafted a bill to financially aid HayPost. The payment of some ֏2.5B in financial obligations, accumulated during its 2011-2016 operations, will be postponed for 5 years.

HayPost will pay annual fixed installments after 2026. "This privilege will ensure the financial stability of the company and will allow the saved funds to be directed to the development of the sector."

HayPost serves approx. 750,000 addresses.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043758.html

Zangezur copper factory official killed during a burglary

The victim was the chief of the Zangezur factory's Repair Department. The burglar inflicted deadly wounds, tied him up, and took ֏5M worth of jewelry. He was spotted by the victim's son who entered the home. The burglar ran and was chased by the victim's son.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206973 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/207001

Georgia-Russia alternative road / Lars BE GONE

Georgia plans to build a new tunnel and road to Russia, to bypass the troublesome Lars route that is often close in the winter due to weather and landslides. This will allow Armenian traders to deliver their farming products in time.

The construction tech has arrived in Georgia. Works begin this Spring. One of the tunnels will be 9 kilometers, with a total of 23km road. "It will be one of the most complex engineering structured in Europe."

https://factor.am/339761.html


neighborhood news

detained for visiting soldiers' graves

Azeri authorities, citing the pandemic, asked several opposition figures to testify in a police station after they visited a cemetery to pay respects to deceased soldiers. Opposition media called it a deliberate pressure on the opposition.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043841.html

earthquake injures 61

Central Iran was rocked by a 5.6M quake last evening, causing destruction and injuring 61.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043847.html

earthquakes & high-rise buildings in Armenia

Urban Development Committee: after the 1988 quake, a plan was formed in 1994 about seismic stability and construction norms. Since then, they have been amended 3 times, with the latest one in 2020.

75% of Armenia's high-rise apartment complex buildings were built during the Soviets and do not meet the seismic norms. A small % of them went through a seismic retrofit or were completely rebuilt. Another % needs to be dismantled.

Only 25% of buildings in Armenia meet seismic standards. They were built with special technologies. Every building built today meets those standards. They can withstand 9-bal quakes.

While schools have been renovated for over a decade, the apartment complex buildings have been largely ignored. Their renovation is also very important.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043822.html

how many apartment complex buildings, and what % is in poor shape?

Urban Development Committee: Armenia has 19,000 apartment complex buildings. 524 are in poor shape (3rd degree, can be rebuilt). 90 are subject to complete dismantling (4th degree).

149 are in Lori, 123 in Shirak, 120 in Yerevan, 86 in Vanadzor, 97 in Gyumri.

Besides the apartment complexes, Armenia has 1200 single-family houses that are subject to dismantling.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043831.html

Tags: #ApartmentComplex #seismic #earthquakes

new seismic protection standards beginning in 2021 / what has changed?

Civil engineering expert David G: Revised and modernized construction norms, aimed at earthquake resistance, have come into force in Armenia since the beginning of this year. They amended the 2018 norms. Usually, they are amended every 10 years, but we modernized the seismic zoning map, so there was a need to modernize the construction norms, too.

An auction for this modernization was launched in 2018. The winner was "Armenian National University of Architecture and Construction" (the speaker is its dean).

An expert group was created, involving university experts, Emergency Ministry, Urban Development Commission, etc. The work lasted 1.5 years. The new standards went into effect on Jan/8/2021.

These standards include resilience relating to reinforced concrete structures and steel construction. What was changed?

Diaphragms. These are reinforced concrete walls. In the past, there was no definition for diaphragms, no standards around them. Now it's clarified.

Tiles. They fall and break over time. They're vulnerable during quakes. Now there are restrictions around this.

Retrofit. Most housing buildings were built during the Soviets and need a seismic retrofit.

It's also important to remember that residents should not make unauthorized modifications to their buildings. We need oversight in addition to safety standards.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043829.html

Tags: #seismic #earthquakes #seismicmap #retrofit

Armenia-Iran meeting / "Iran cannot remain silent"

Parliament Speaker Ararat met Iranian ambassador Abbas. "Iran is a friendly country and a reliable partner." They spoke about the November 9th ceasefire statement and its implementation. "The conflict is not resolved until OSCE Minks Group doesn't regulate Artsakh's legal status and its people's right to self-determination. Iran cannot refrain from expressing its position on Artsakh, especially since other regional states are actively involved in favor of Azerbaijan," said Speaker Ararat.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043828.html

government session / signs of economic recovery

Nikol Pashinyan: Armenia's economy is showing the first signs of post-crisis recovery. In the first half of February, the sales receipts and showed 604,000 more transactions YoY. Trade turnover +12% or ֏31.4B.

Import-export also rose significantly compared to the same pre-COVID period. It's an important sign that we're entering a recovery phase.

IRS boss Edward: most of that ֏31.4B increase came from the retail sector (small-scale purchases), services, and production.

Economy Minister Qerobyan: be cautious about the growth in consumption. For example, there are many weddings that were postponed, and now "debt is being paid back." We need to continue with financial aid for the economy until we're sure the situation is stable.

Pashinyan: we continue all the aid programs for businesses.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043787.html

government session / budget redistribution / spirit exports / grape harvest

Additional ֏954M will be spent on agriculture and social aid. ֏165M of it goes to cognac spirit producers to compensate their taxes which should help to boost this export 2x; another ֏274M was issued recently.

֏99M on wheat subsidies. ֏32M to aid the transport industry that relies on tourism. ֏144M for people affected by war. ֏543M to fight COVID.

Pashinyan: the 4.4 million liters of cognac spirit is the number that has already been exported?

Minister Qerobyan: Yes. The cognac aid package we're passing today is for compensating for the past exports. For this year, we plan ֏900M in aid just for cognac spirit exports, which should increase to 9 million liters. It has a chain effect on viticulture and agricultural development. Farmers haven't been closing roads to protest the inability to sell their grapes for 2 years now.

Deputy PM Avinyan: In this process, it is also very important that we start to get the real picture of the vineyards in Armenia. The production volumes should be clear.

Economy Minister Qerobyan: we should solve this issue by using digital methods, so as not to involve too much manual labor in monitoring the grape procurement process.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043792.html

Pashinyan throws a temper tantrum after discovering that courts are slow and paperwork=bureaucracy

Tavush's Nerqin Karmiraghbyur village is supposed to have a new park but the construction has been delayed due to property registration քաշքշուկ.

Urban Development: to this day, we have been unable to register the property under the community's balance. There are problems with the owners' inheritance documents. There are ongoing lawsuits.

Pashinyan: Will this issue ever be resolved? Why hasn't it been resolved so far? In whose field is it?

Urban Development: the local municiality's.

Pashinyan: We made promises to people, we allocated the financing, we approved the project, the agreements were reached. It turns out it has not been done yet?

Infrastructure Minister Papik: we'll look into it.

Pashinyan: don't "look into it". We started this in August. The funds were allocated, a property was purchased, the project is planned, residents want the garden.

Urban Development: after the problem with the first house, when you visited the settlement, an offer was made to purchase another house to do the construction in its place. We bought it. But we need some documents to start the process.

Pashinyan: I don't understand... somebody didn't register something.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043803.html , https://youtu.be/QogvTrt6Clc

Shurnukh border village receives funding for new housing district / infrastructure project begins

Shurnukh is a Syunik village that was partially built on the internationally-recognized Azeri border. It lost a dozen houses.

Today the government approved a ֏470M aid to build a new district for the relocated families. The work began in mid-January to canvas the nearby areas to select suitable lands for the new district. The construction of 13 houses, with adjacent barns and fences, will begin soon.

The residents should settle in this year. New asphalt roads and adjacent infrastructure will complete next year. In 2023, the govt plans to build industrial and social facilities in the area.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043795.html

solutions for livestock and agriculture issues on Syunik borders

PM's adviser Ghukasyan: Work is being done to solve the problems related to agricultural work and livestock in the border areas of the Syunik region. Border villagers no longer have access to some fields used in the past. The problem is especially acute in Vorotan, where the administrative district is very small.

We're working with the Economy Ministry to find solutions involving greenhouses, intensive gardens, and smart barns. We'll have solutions soon.

Together with the Emergency Ministry, we are discussing the issues related to the installation of civil defense bases in the border settlements, and issues relating to the border road, to address concerns by residents.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043804.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043809.html

monthly payments to refugees extended by 4 months / $116 million in aid packages so far

The government has spent ֏61B ($116M) on 18 different post-war aid packages so far.

One of them has been a monthly ֏68K+15K payment to refugees. This aid has been extended for 4 more months. Any family member, who isn't a working-age able-bodied male, qualifies for this aid.

Pashinyan: some of those 18 aid packages haven't been implemented fully yet. We are aware of distribution and documentation issues related to child aid.

Deputy PM Mher: some of these delays were objective. We could have spent more time addressing issues before distributing the aid, but that would delay the aid for everyone else. Now it's being done in "phases".

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043797.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043806.html , https://factor.am/339778.html , https://factor.am/339791.html

government session / water management / weather forceast

Pashinyan: the weather is favorable at the moment. Forecasts suggest that we won't have problems with water resources this year. However, we have already spoken with the relevant Ministries that we must work very seriously on the efficient distribution of water.

Every effort should be made to ensure that neither tomato nor grape growers find it necessary to close the roads to make their voices heard this year. Agriculture resumes in March. There needs to be cooperation with local municipalities to make sure the issues are addressed before they turn into problems.

Infrastructure Minister Papikyan: sometimes we have protests relating to water price and inaccessibility. To have water, farmers must contact the local Water Union and file an application beforehand. I ask our citizens to do their part. These contracts are required to receive water for տնկարկ.

Economy Minister Qerobyan: Yesterday I met the Azatan mayor and discussed the creation of a regulator-reservoir. With a small investment, we can irrigate additional 600-1000 hectares. This is a great example. We need to encourage settlements to do a similar project.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043857.html

EU to donate additional €3M to populations in Artsakh and surrounding areas

It's in addition to the €6.9M spent earlier. It'll help refugees, as well as residents in Artsakh and Azerbaijan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043874.html

would you like to build Armenian traditional musical instruments?

Are you really going to take someone's stick and put it in your mouth? How about you create yours, so you know it's clean. Education Ministry is cooperating with masters Mikhail and Sergey Sadoyevs to teach you how to build or fix an instrument. Shvi, duduk, zurna, flute, tar, qanon, qamancha, and ud.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043788.html

FIFA ranks Armenian soccer team at 99th place

1) Belgium 2) France 3) Brazil 89) Georgia 99) Armenia 108) Azerbaijan 177) Moldova

https://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/ranking-table/men/

Have you ever seen a fight between foxes?

Caught on nature camera

https://youtu.be/AFU4i0BRA_0

today in history

1564: Michelangelo dies (not the turtle)

1921: Bolsheviks murder 21 prominent Armenian public figures and officers, among whom were Sardarapat heroes Hamazasp Srvandztyan and Nikolay Ghorghyan.

Also 1921: anti-Bolshevik uprising liberates Yerevan from Bolsheviks.

1930: Pluto is discovered.

1977: the statue of Commander Gay is installed in Yerevan.

1979: first-ever snow in Sahara desert

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043755.html

donations to Artsakh & recovering soldiers

www.1000plus.am (recovering soldiers & their families)

www.HimnaDram.org (for Artsakh & Armenia)

www.ArmeniaFund.org (U.S. tax-deductible)

archive of older news

http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Daily_Anti-Corruption_Reports

disclaimer

All the accused are considered innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "sound" or "appear" guilty.


Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/lmx7am/feb182021_1_seismic_standards_revised_housing/

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