2020 February 20
Feb/20/2020 -- Daily News summary from Armenia -- Stay informed about the ongoing Anti-Corruption Busts, Constitutional Court crisis, Politics, Economy, Diaspora, Daily Life, and more...
Disclaimer: All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, even if they may sound as being guilty. Currency in Armenian Drams ֏ unless specified otherwise.
BICC militarization index shows the level of militarization in each country. It's about army expenditures, ratio, the importance of army, etc.
1 Israel, 2 Singapore, 3 Armenia, 6 Russia, 10 Azerbaijan, 19 Turkey, 49 Georgia, 154 Costa Rica. Moldova didn't make it on the list.
The govt held a session and gave 2.5bln to Electoral Committee to organize the April 5th referendum, 234mln for police to provide safety, 660mln to organize the ballot-counting process's monitoring and live-streaming in 1500 locations.
The Human Rights Ombudsman's office will not comment on whether the referendum is good, bad, or legal, but will monitor its pre and post election-day activities with a newly created group, to make sure voters' and journalists' rights are respected.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181030 Pashinyan's interview with H1's Petros / Referendum
Pashinyan is currently giving a live interview on H1 to talk about the referendum. https://www.facebook.com/nikol.pashinyan/videos/563818584215195/
Pashinyan: There are no legal issues with the referendum. From day-1 our goal was to have a country that complies with Constitution, which states that the power belongs to people. No compliant elections were held since 1991, except the 1999 Parliamentary elections. Now we have a situation when the Constitution envisions CC term limits, but some CC members are above others.
Pashinyan: unfortunately the public still attributes the court's actions to govt. The court arrests someone - it's govt's fault. The court releases someone - it's govt fault. There is a total distrust towards the court system because of their past falsifications. CC has been part of the previous regime's pyramid.
Pashinyan: why don't we send the referendum bill to be reviewed in Venice Commission first? The Venice Commission has to answer why these (former regime's) violations were made under their watch. We'll have time to discuss this. I mentioned this during my trip to Germany. They were surprised Armenia is going through this process.
https://news.am/arm/news/561500.html former governor-suspect went missing after medical trip
Former Syunik governor HHK Surik Liska Khachatryan is accused of rigging an auction and embezzlement.
In June-2019 Liska was busted by NSS with alleged abuse of power and embezzlement.
In Aug-20-2019 Liska's friend claims he is in a coma after heart surgery in France, and "will likely die soon."
In Nov-20-2019 the prosecutors charged him and issued an arrest warrant in-absentia.
As of Feb-20-2020, they don't have him under custody. The investigators insist he can receive proper care in Armenia if it's needed.
https://factor.am/223076.html landmark court verdict on phone wiretapping
In 2017, an ex-husband called the ex-wife and threatened to kill her over a child custody dispute. The woman recorded their phone conversation without his consent.
The next day he went to the ex's apartment and knocked on the door with threats, posing a real threat. He stopped when the police were called.
In Feb-2018 the Lower Court examined the wiretapped phone call, other info, and found the man guilty.
In May-2018 the man challenged the verdict in the Appeals Court. This time, the Appeals found the secretly wiretapped call inadmissible in court, and sided with the man, citing lack of evidence of threats.
The woman and the prosecutors challenged this not-guilty verdict in the Cassations Court, citing precedence by European Court for Human Rights allowing secret wiretapping if a person's life is at stake. Cassations sided with Lower, and overturned the Appeals.
The Cassations Court altered its own precedence and decided that secret wiretapping can be admissible under some circumstances. These exceptions are about whether it was done in good faith, if no other options were available, whether the wiretapper is the victim or a 3rd person, etc.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181075 maestros gone to entertain the Heaven
Honorary Artist, actor and producer Yervand Manaryan has passed away at the age of 95. "May God enlighten your soul, dear Master", wrote Pashinyan. "He was an example of a free mind and a fearless intellectual," said Education Minister Harutyunyan.
Opera House says the famed conductor and honorary artist Yuri Davtyan has also passed away.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181038 church burglars caught
The NSS joined the investigation to find out who stole the donation box from the Dadivank monastery. Three burglars aged 25 were arrested the following day. They entered the monastery through the unlocked door and walked out with the loot. The property is returned. A felony case is launched.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181027 Hrazdan clinic chief busted
Kotayk governor's office says they audited the Hrazdan clinic in 2019 and found that the director and the secretary embezzled 14.8mln in 2019. They were fired. Governor Romanos contacted the NSS. A felony case is launched.
Jan-2020 vs Jan-2019 showed an increased revenue in the clinic, 14mln vs 11mln.
https://factor.am/223125.html school bribery busted by police
Dilijan police say they busted a 2009-2013 bribery case by several officials in School N2. They're accused of hiring several non-existent employees and stealing salary funds.
BHK chief's gas station penalized
A QP MP earlier received complaints that BHK chief Dodi Gago's MULTI gas station wasn't printing sales receipts. She informed about her own experience in the past.
The IRS examined the business and found a violation. The station was fined 300k Drams because this was the 2nd violation in 1 year.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181068 983 welfare abuse busts
The govt reviewed the financial status of some welfare recipients in Gegharquniq and cut 983 recipients off.
"Jeep and mansion owners won't receive PAROS aid anymore. These savings will let us provide 239 more cattle to poor families," said governor Galstyan.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005669.html a doctor is charged with a patient's death
A patient died in 2013. The Investigative Committee says the endoscopic department's chief doctor examined a patient's intestines after a pain complaint, but didn't examine the small intestine (duodenum part). This resulted in the chronic bleeding going unnoticed, while other doctors tried to figure things out. The patient died from a hemorrhage shock.
If convicted under Code 130.2, he's facing 2-6 years in prison and a 3-year ban on being a doctor.
https://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?docid=69646 coronavirus in Iran / Armenian border
Coronavirus killed 2 elderly Iranians yesterday. Report says the victims might have socialized with tourists who came from abroad and brought the virus with them (there was news that denied this). 2 hospitals were separated in the city of Qom, 140km from capital Tehran, to act as coronavirus centers. All the schools and universities shut down in Qom.
3 additional coronavirus infections were recorded in Iran today. Armenia will tighten border checks in the southern Meghri entry point with Iran.
Armenian govt hasn't shut down the entry for Chinese citizens. Earlier they revoked the visa-free access for now.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181060 zoo will resume after quarantine
A camel died in the Yerevan zoo on February 5th. Doctors found traces of tuberculosis. The area was quarantined and nearby objects were burned down to stop the possible spread. The zoo was shut down to examine other animals. The zoo will soon resume its operations because nothing else was found.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181072 flu season and schools
Flu is retreating in Armenia. A few days ago 7.1% of schoolchildren were sick. Today it's only 4.4%. Recently, 351 children were blocked from school and sent home for having a fever.
While the flu is manageable in Armenian schools, the situation is different in Artsakh. Artsakh's Education Ministry decided to shut down schools for 2 days. The missed classes will be supplemented later. State clinics will begin to operate with longer hours.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181079 illegal logging busts
Sevan National Park cooperated with police to catch a man who illegally cut 17 pine trees. He confessed. A felony case is launched.
Dilijan police and nature inspectors stopped a suspicious vehicle and searched it. They found 80 bags of chopped wood. The driver couldn't prove the wood was cut/obtained legally. The loot was towed away and an investigation was launched.
Tumanyan police caught 2 loggers with KamAz truck filled with wood. One of them claimed he cut it from his backyard (and I accidentally shot John Kennedy). It's being investigated.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181063 Lydian miner's river use
Earlier Lydian gold miner asked the Nature Ministry for permission to drain water from Darp. They got rejected. Lydian is currently suing the Ministry for this.
Then Lydian asked to drain water from the Arpa River. The Ministry rejected, again. Lydian then asked for less water to be drained from Arpa. This time the permit was granted.
"We thank the Ministry for this permission, but we still can't do our job in the mine because of the illegal road blockade by environmental activists," said Lydian. (Lydian was told to fix 16 problems to reduce pollution before they can mine for gold. The activists are keeping the roads closed, thus preventing Lydian from implementing the safety measures.)
https://factor.am/222906.html restoring lands in former mining areas
The Nature Ministry earlier said they want to recultivate Kapan lands that were used by Kavart copper miner before being abandoned in 2009. (it harms nature when left abandoned).
Environmentalists have long complained that this abandoned mine is poisoning waters with heavy metals. Calls were made to address this in 2015, but "nothing was done". When the former administration signed the deal with the miner, they didn't properly clarify what would happen to lands if the miner stopped working.
Now the Nature Ministry examined what it would take to restore the lands, and came up with a 3.3bln price-tag.
Nature Minister Eric:
The area belongs to the govt now. The mining stopped 11 years ago. We'll create a blueprint, work on the land, plant the flora, implement water and waste removal mechanisms, observe to make sure the tree roots stick and grow, etc.
The miner "Dino Gold Mining Company" was not required to recultivate the lands. They were only legally required to do a small amount of work after abandoning the mine. In 2018 a law was proposed to require future miners to fully recultivate lands. We found 10 similar abandoned lands that need urgent treatment.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180181 կրակը շատա
Zeytun district resident accidentally set the apartment complex on fire after deciding to burn wood inside a bucket to heat and cook. Neighbors say she has a habit to prepare BBQ eggplants and pepper on an open fire inside the apartment. (75% chance your grandma has done this)
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181044 ECHR penalty funds
In Dec-2019 the European Court for Human Rights sided with 22 Armenian plaintiffs against the govt about past violations, and obligated the govt to pay 125mln in damages. Today the govt issued the funds.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181031 EU upgrades Armenia's tax-compliance status
In Feb-18 the EU made a decision to remove Armenia from the "grey list" of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. Steps were taken in 2018 and 2019 to comply.
In Jan-2018 Armenia signed a European tax convention agreement, and applied it in Dec-2019.
In another instance, Armenia reviewed its tax laws to remove non-competitive clauses, and officially joined the BEPS platform in 2019. The participation envisions more reform requirements. The govt is working with BEPS to comply.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005634.html Agreement with EU / cash daddy raining €65mln
The govt approved several international agreements and grants from the EU.
€5mln to help clean up lake Sevan and reduce dirty water from pouring in.
€3.7mln to co-subsidize the ongoing effort to improve energy efficiency in large apartment complex buildings (heat insulation, renewable generation).
€17mln to help small businesses with small loans.
€10.1mln for strengthening the development of local groups that aid the development of business in their settlements.
€3.5mln to help work migrants with their business ideas, and to help their families in Armenia to do business in Armenia. It's a pilot program.
€18.7mln for the implementation of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). A few things need to be done as a prerequisite. This aid is to help with that. Experts will be hired.
€2mln for civil society participation in CEPA.
€4mln to help upgrade Armenia's measuring labs and provide expertise. This will help with exporting products to EU.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181033 arable lands near the border
To enter and work on land near the Turkish border, you have to get a permit from the border guards. Farmers complain that they have a big harvest and not enough workforce, and when they hire helpers, they get suck in long border patrol queues.
Parliament will launch an expedited process to address this "hopefully within a month". They'll ask bordering provinces for advice before sending a proposal to PM's cabinet.
(Earlier the govt authorized a free entry to a border village that had only one resident, so she "wouldn't be lonely")
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181061 illegal buildings and their legalization
Pashinyan during govt session:
It turns out there are mansions in Yerevan, belonging to former officials, that were built illegally from the beginning to the end.
The former officials put efforts to pass laws to make it easy to legalize their illegal structures. This is why today Yerevan municipality is required to legalize some buildings (opposition criticized Yerevan for this practice late last year, questioning whether there was bribery involved, Yerevan responded citing these legalization laws).
PM continues: Some officials built unbelievable mansions in the Monument Park. Now they came and demand legalization citing these laws. The city consulted with legal experts and they say they have to legalize them. This is unbelievable. The Justice Ministry should consult with Yerevan.
In provinces, the houses are built without any architectural design or permit: 4 walls, roof, stairs. That's it. Every construction should follow rules and regulations.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181037 financial reward for sports victories
The govt made a decision to give 5mln to each of the 10 best Armenian sportsmen. This will become an annual thing.
From now on, Olympic gold gets 20mln, silver 15mln, bronze 10mln.
World champions will receive 100k/month "victory pension for life" instead of the current 55k. Olympic champions will receive 200k instead of 100k.
Pashinyan said, "The govt should change its attitude towards sports and value it more. Sport is strategically important. I mentioned earlier that by 2050 we must win 25 Olympic medals, win the chess world champion title, and the soccer team must win a title in Euro/World cup."
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181053 energy efficiency
Pashinyan during govt session:
I'll tell you a joke to promote the topic of energy efficiency among the public: Two people talk about the rising gas prices, one of them says, "I don't care, I always fill up 1000 Drams worth gas."
We all spend X amount to heat and cool our houses as a habit. This number can be reduced if we improve efficiency. We can spend 700 Drams instead of 1000. (govt wants to insulate large buildings, install solar panels, replace street lamps with efficient bulbs, etc.)
Avinyan said: we'll need $2bln to resolve the energy efficiency problem. There are 60 ongoing projects for public and private buildings. Once insulated, they save 50% on energy bill.
Armenia's retail trade turnover rose 7.9% and amounted 1.6trln ($3.3bln) in 2019. It was the best performance in EAEU.
Pashinyan during govt session: The Stats Committee published the latest numbers. The GDP grew by 7.6% in 2019. When was the last time we had this growth? The absolute number was 6trln 551bln 849mln.
Avinyan: in the year 2000.
Pashinyan: cool, so we can record the highest growth since 2008. Let's beat that number this year.
Pashinyan: in 2018 I promised that $2.5bln addition funds will be spent on the army by 2023, and that $1.5bln of it will come from the anti-corruption fight. While law enforcement has recovered a lot, multiple times more than it used to, the number isn't close to our goal. I know we can do better with legal reforms. (Parliament has a bill to allow investigators to check official's family's banking info to help catch embezzlement. Another pending bill would allow large asset forfeiture of public officials if they can't prove property's legal origins.)
Pashinyan: today the Central Bank purchased another $10million in currency, bringing the 2020 total to $47.8mln so far.
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/f6zase/feb202020_daily_news_summary_from_armenia_stay/
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