2020 February 24
Feb/24/2020 --- Daily News & Anti-Corruption summary from Armenia --- March 1st, testimony, sniper, murder / Education Reforms / TV networks / Yerevan's sewers / State property embezzlement / Coronavirus at borders / Fish farms and nature / Nominal wages in 2019 / High tech / 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.
The Police Forces commander about March 1st / sniper shooting / riots
Context: 10 people were killed on March 1st, 2008. That morning, the police illegally dispersed the sleeping crowd near the Opera building and pushed them towards Mashtots St, where the now-agitated crowd burned down vehicles, made barricades, and clashed with the police. The Police Forces violated the weapon safety protocols and shot a special type of flash grenades directly at protesters, killing several. Others were shot with rifles. 8 protesters, 1 policeman, 1 soldier died during the clashes. The rioters were throwing objects at the forces.
There have been multiple witness testimonies about the army's involvement in the events. Besides the army, there were also civilian Police Forces in the area.
Bagrat Khachatryan is the commander of Unit 1001 of Police Forces, and a participant of March 1st events. He is also named as a potential suspect in the criminal cover-up, so take his testimony with a grain of salt.
This is his version of events on how things unfolded that day (comments by me):
Since Feb-20-2008 we were on high alert. The third of our crew had the boots on at all times. We received shotguns and flash-grenades.
At 6:30 AM on March 1st we got an alarm. The deputy-chief Gegham Petrosyan (recently charged with the murder of a protester, first-ever direct charge for a murder) told us to put on the gear. We took those weapons and arrived near the Opera building. Other units also arrived.
At 8:30 we stationed near the Tumanyan statue, Opera building. At the time there were no protesters already (dispersed early in the morning).
At 10:00 AM the Police Forces chief Grigor Grigoryan told us to join deputy-chief Gegham's unit.
Deputy-chief Gegham then instructed us to join Unit 1033 and deploy near the French Embassy (on Grigor Lusavorich Street). We stood between Myasnikyan St, Grigor Lusavorich St, and the embassy.
The protesters at the time had already shut down the Grigor Lusavorich St. A bus and cars were used to barricade the road. Some of them had sticks and shields. I was told that they had earlier attacked policemen, but I wasn't there when that happened.
Protesters were throwing rocks towards us. The police began negotiating with protest leaders. They agreed that the protesters would move near Matenadaran building.
Note: protesters' chief negotiator was David Shashnazaryan. At the time he was part of Levon Ter-Petorsyan's team and a Roboserj opponent. In 2019 Shashnazaryan joined Roboserj.
At 17:00 the deputy-chief Gegham sent us to Mashtots St. Our unit arrived and joined other units near the Mashtots market, above the underground passage area.
The other units closed this area so the protesters wouldn't advance towards the rest of Mashtots St.
Deputy-chief Gegham told 20 of my men to arm with empty bullets and flash bullets. Experienced (Russian) sniper Evgeniy Kachak was given a Dragunov SVD sniper rifle. Garik Vardanyan, Arthur Sargsyan and Dimitriy Yatsenko were given empty bullets (u pinky-swear?).
The group of 20 men then went and joined Unit 1032, while I went to the area above the underground passage on Mashtots St. That's where the higher-ups gathered.
The riots were escalating at the time. Protesters were throwing rocks and metals. We were told that some of them had weapons, bombs, and Molotov cocktails. Rumors circulated that the protesters wanted to march towards President Kocharyan's building.
I ordered our group to receive Makarov handguns in addition to the flash-bullets. Overall, 19 rifles were brought from the station, out of which 3 could shoot empty-bullets. 1 sniper rifle, 8 Makarov pistols.
At 19:00 deputy-chief Gegham told us to move left. If you face the protesters, we were on the furthest left corner. Next to us were Units 1032 and 1033.
The group of my 20 men, armed with this special gear, was placed behind us, while those with live ammunition, including sniper Evgeniy Kachak, were placed at the back to avoid direct clashes. The chief told us that only himself or deputy-chief Gegham can instruct us to shoot from rifles and that only in the air.
At 19:30 the protesters had 2 buses as barricades. Protesters would come behind them and throw rocks.
We got an order to move forward. The crowds became more aggressive and threw more items. Several officers were injured. Protesters were throwing explosives. Some protesters began to shoot at us, we could hear bullets above our heads. Sometimes they would use flash-bullets.
That's when deputy-chief Gegham told us to use force.( ու էտ վախտ ես հելա ու ասի, "հլա մի րոպեեե"
My group began to shoot from shotguns and Cheremukha 4 & 7 flash-bang grenades. The forces were being ferociously attacked. The chief told us to shoot in the air with rifles
to scare the crowd. We did. This scared the protesters and they ran towards Zakian St. Some protesters shot at us with fully automatic weapons.
We were told to retreat. Instead of being scared of our shots, the crowd got more aggressive. We tried to use barbwire to close Mashtots St. The crowd prevented the barbwire vehicle from doing its work. We retreated towards the upper part of where the underground passage is on Mashtots. We unsuccessfully tried to install barbwires again, before retreating to Paronyan St. We were attacked with Molotovs. The crowd advanced on us. We couldn't let them go any further towards Proshyan St. because that's where the President's building is.
We ordered more shots fired into the air. A protester drove cars towards us and stopped when we shot bang grenades.
At 23:00 we received an order to station the soldiers on Leo St. We stood in front of them. Someone threw a grenade behind us. One officer was injured.
I left to receive medical aid for my aching feet (non-riot related), and while I was away, I heard a shot and panic in the ranks. One soldier received a wound to his neck and later died.
The chief told the armed officers and sniper Evgeniy Kachak to move to the front line and observe and incapacitate any shooters they see.
Sometime later, sniper Kachak fired a shot and told me that he noticed a man pointing a gun at forces. He claimed he shot the protester in the foot.
The next day we did an audit and found that the live bullets in 19 rifles weren't used.
End of his testimony.
By the way, the Russian sniper Evganiy Kachak was later murdered under suspicious circumstances with "professional blows" to his head while visiting a graveyard. So there's that... www.pastinfo.am/hy/news/2017/05/17/Ո՞վ-է-սպանել-6-րդ-վարչության-նախկին-աշխատակցին/546099
What you read were the accounts of a suspect. Last year the SIS mentioned the author Lt. Col. Bagrat Khachatryan as one of the participants of the scheme who collected the live bullet shells fired by the soldiers to cover up their participation in the crime, then replaced the shells with bullet shells fired at a gun range by Police Forces. Read my Sep/25/2019 report for details.
Relevant: Last year, media outlet ArmTimes published an unconfirmed story in which they claimed to have received a report about the existence of a foreign-language document showing that a foreign group of experts was sent to aid the Kocharyan regime in late-February 2008 by "advising him", and that the group stayed in the govt building.
Tags: #March1st #March1 #MartiMek March 1st protester cleared
Another early-morning March 1st protester, Hovhannes Ghazaryan, will have his "assaulting policeman" conviction dropped after the prosecutors challenged a 2008 court verdict in the Appeals Court just recently.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181366 deputy-police chief's trial resumes / QP MP in court
During the 2018 revolution, the police shot bang grenades at protesters, injuring dozens. The deputy police chief Yeranosyan is a suspect. He is accused of improperly using the weapon without a permit (while being drunk, according to some accounts). QP MP deputy-speaker Alen Simonyan testified as a victim.
The trial resumed and both sides said they're OK with only Alen Simonyan being present out of all the victims who sustained injuries.
The court reviewed an Apr-16-2018 video showing explosions, and an Apr-22-2018 video during which Pashinyan and others were arrested.
The defendant argued the force was justified. The prosecutors argued otherwise.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181323 security council
Security Councils of Armenia and Artsakh, joined by PM Pashinyan and President Bako, met to discuss the Munich results, foreign policy, army. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181224 border shooting
Azeri army shot at the Armenian borders in the North-Eastern Tavush region, wounding 1 soldier lightly. Armenian side returned a suppressive fire. 1 Azeri soldier was killed.
Koti mayor says the shootout lasted 20 minutes. "Every now and then they forget whom they're dealing with," said the mayor.
Defense Ministry denied Azeri govt's fake news claiming it was an Armenian diversionary attack.
Update: Jalal Harutyunyan will replace Karen Abrahamyan as the new Artsakh Defense Minister. Several high ranking officials were recently fired for unsatisfactory work and suicide/murder of 5 soldiers since Jan-2020.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181325 elder soldiers will get higher pensions
For several years, formerly hired soldiers complained that their experience in the army didn't qualify them for a military pension because they were above the age of 45 at the time of service.
The Human Rights Ombudsman contacted the Defense Minister. The latter decided to begin to count >45 age as qualifiable for a pension.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005983.html Barekendan festivities
Armenia celebrated the Barekendan festival on Sunday. It's an old traditional celebration of having fun and eating as much as possible before the fasting period begins.
PICS: https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181286 Russian TV & upcoming airways changes
Update: Earlier the TV regulator agency's chief and Russian ambassador exchanged verbal shots after the regulator complained about foreign-language programming in Armenian airways, not enough Armenian-language programs, poor standards for things broadcasted through public airways, etc. (see Jan/31/2020 post).
The "Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression" commented saying the following:
Without commenting on the political part of the argument between the regulator and the Russian embassy, we'd like to mention that Russian PTP-Planeta TV is the most anti-European network. It's worse than all other networks combined.
This TV spreads hatred and manipulation. One may ask, why does the Armenian viewer need this? For example, during the show "Evenings with Vladimir Solovyov" the guests exceed the ethical norms and present fascism as part of European values. Instead of restraining the guests, the host (Solovyov) himself manipulates the viewer, by blaming fascism on Europe as a whole.
The host presents the Western European people as weak and incapable of defending themselves, while praising those under Soviet control. This is done to defame European people. Solovyov's favorite guest is a man who claims "Mein Kempf" is what European values are about. There are many such examples on PTP TV.
If this was all meant for the Russian audience, we wouldn't have a problem with that, but PTP is broadcasted in Armenia under the only "public multiplex" airways to all residents. These Russian TVs don't have to abide by Armenian laws and regulations. Understandably, Russia has its rhetoric against the West, but why should the Armenian viewer be subject to this brainwashing? You could say "if Armenians don't like it they can choose not to watch it", but it still affects the public. This should be solved through political dialogue.
End of Committee's post.
Tag: #PublicTV #RussianTV Yerevan's water canals
Yerevan's garbage problem was solved with the introduction of city-run agency and more trash bins, but what about the rainwater drain canals?
They are usually clogged with trash. To make things worse, street sweepers sometimes dump the trash into the canals.
This results in the city being covered in floods after heavy rains every Spring. Cars get stuck in water pools and people have to walk in the water.
City's trash-agency says their staff doesn't dump trash into the canals. "Right now it's manageable but we'll see how it goes when heavy rains begin. We treated the streets with salt and sand. Time will tell how it affected the canals," said the agency rep. (doesn't sound reassuring, does it?)
Veolia Water firm is tasked with managing the water removal system. Veolia says that in the past, when Yerevan's trash was being collected by Sanitek (RIP), Sanitek was the one to clean up the canals from trash, but it wasn't being done efficiently. As a result, Veolia Water began to remove canals' trash themselves. "We'll probably do the same this year, but the main responsibility is on the trash-collecting agency's shoulders," said Veolia.
Unfortunately, in many locations, water canals connect to sewers. This results in sewers becoming clogged from the debris brought by canals. The two systems are separate in developed countries.
Yerevan's 320km water canals are cleaned every Spring and Autumn. In some parts of the city, there are no canals (Qanaqer, Norq-Marash), while in others its too small.
We're located on a lowland. The rain pours from Norq/Qanaqer, where there are no canals, down to Center district. The accumulated water in large quantities makes Center's canal insufficient. Large investments are needed to build new canals across the city to slow the flow.
We negotiated with Yerevan recently and improved the canals near 9 streets.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/179191 largest blackout since LTP
Yerevan municipality posted a compilation video of multiple thieves casually walking in and stealing light bulbs from the underground passage.
Market Inspection Committee issued a penalty to ABC Pharmacia makeup company for selling unknown products without tags. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181230 former officials and state property embezzlement
The State Property Management Agency has been on the anti-corruption news a lot. Since the revolution, there were 32 felony cases against various officials for abusing a state-owned property pricing/distribution process.
Scheme: officials hire a friendly assessment firm that gives a fake lower pricing. The expensive building is then sold to the official's allies for the low price. Later, the new owner sells it in the private market for the much higher "real" value
One questionable transaction was about former Transport Ministery HHK Gagik Beglaryan's family. His brother gave a state property to his wife's firm for a 25-year lease.
Q: Mr. chief of State Property Management Agency, what revelations have been made since your appointment in office?
A: We have 32 cases. A big chunk of it is about a specific private company that was hired by the Agency to assess property values. The Agency claimed that the govt-run assessment institute was overloaded, so they needed a private assessment company's help. This private assessor undervalued prices by billions of Drams.
Sports Teams Center was managed by former Minister Beglaryan's brother. The assessor helped to gave its assets to Beglaryan's wife's firm for 25 years. In another instance, DzoraHek hydro plant was given away for a very cheap price. Felony cases are launched.
Q: How many properties have you been able to recover and return under state-ownership?
The main goal is not to return property under state control. The problem is that some of the transfers have been done with violations. Big violations were made in the 90s, 2000s but there isn't much paperwork left. These are long and hard processes to investigate. In some instances, the paperwork is "fixed" to look legal. The most important thing is to act legally from now on.
Q: Has Manvel Tushonka Grigoryan transferred the 5-billion-Dram-worth "Aknalich Beaver Breeding Company" to state yet? (great choice of business m8)
A: Not yet. We'd rather take the firm's property than the firm itself, to save time on legal paperwork. There are 25 land property ownership documents in that case.
Q: Are there many govt institutes that have a shortage of state-owned properties and find themselves leasing from private firms?
A: There are many, unfortunately. Many buildings under our possession are in poor shape and we can't offer them to govt agencies. Today we have a policy of de-centralizing govt by moving govt agencies to suburbs and freeing up their expensive estate in Center.
Q: Pashinyan recently spoke about "illegal mansions" built by former admins in Monument Park. What can your Agency do about it?
A: We can act when the govt passes the law about asset forfeiture. In the case of Monument specifically, the land the mansions were built on is community-owned, therefore it's out of our federal Agency's jurisdiction.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181189 disability-aid embezzlement busted
Labor Ministry contacted the prosecutors to audit the aid distributed to disabled people. The report says:
Labor Ministry hired 2 firms to distribute equipment to disabled people, teach them how to use it, at no cost to the disabled.
One of the firms took the money from govt but didn't buy aid for recipients, while in other instances they provided cheaper crap to save money on it, in 2019.
The second firm also purchased cheap crap in Mar-2019 and forged docs before sending the "job completion" report to Ministry.
A felony case is launched. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181302 school director busted
Uyts, Syunik school director is accused of registering non-existent employees and embezzling their salaries. A felony case is launched. https://factor.am/223890.html education reforms / exams / subsidy
One of the upcoming Education Ministry reforms will require unified Armenian Langauge exams for all university applicants.
The system that provides student pensions to a limited number of high-performers will also be revamped. Instead of giving X slots to each university, the X will be provided to each "academic field". The student picks their university/major and gets a subsidized education.
Universities' management boards will shrink and be consist of 1 student, 5 university officials, and 6 people from business sector, civil society, education field experts. The members cannot be part of a political party.
"For decades, we had a corroding education system. These reforms touch all areas. We have all the reasons to make these changes. These won't be cosmetic changes," said Education Minister Arayik Harutyunyan during a Parliament session today.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1006002.html southern border closed for coronavirus
43 Iranians have been diagnosed with coronavirus. 8 deaths. Al Arabiya outlet cites its (unconfirmed) sources claiming there are 18 deaths as of Feb-23.
Armenian Healthcare Ministry dispatched a medical crew to the southern Meghri border entry point to screen arrivals.
The Foreign Ministry advised against traveling to Iran, and for Armenian nationals in Iran to stay in touch with AM embassy. The embassy's consulate suspended its operations and won't accept new visitors, for now, to prepare "some things". The embassy as a whole still function.
Pashinyan and "coronavirus prevention taskforce" gathered a meeting. They decided to partially close the air with Iran, fully close the land border for travelers, and allow cargo truck drivers upon stricter inspection. The ban will last for 2 weeks. Armenians in Iran, and Iranians in Armenia, will be able to freely return to their countries.
Turkey, Georgia, and Afghanistan also closed their borders with Iran. Turkey also closed the border with Nakhijevan.
Healthcare Ministry denied rumors of coronavirus patients in Kapan hospital. 83 people were tested and it came negative.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181256 --- https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181259 --- https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181265 --- https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181283 --- https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181284 --- https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005929.html --- https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005938.html --- https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181290 --- https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181303 --- https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1006073.html --- https://razm.info/140491 --- https://nypost.com/2020/02/23/coronavirus-death-toll-in-iran-is-the-largest-outside-china/ earthquake in Iran, Turkey, and Armenia
6M quake shook the Iran-Turkey border near Van. It was felt ~3M in Yerevan and provinces at 9:53 AM.
9 died and 50 injured in Turkey. 104 injured in Iran.
Armenian MFA sent condolences to the victims' families.
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181258 --- https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005928.html --- https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005939.html --- https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181297 Baku and Sumgait pogroms
The Armenian community in Vienna organized a protest march to commemorate the upcoming 30th and 32nd anniversary of Baku and Sumgait massacres of the Armenian population. Leaflets were distributed to locals to raise awareness.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005941.html Henrikh Mkhitaryan
He is back and kicking butt. Heno passed a ball that led to a goal in 12th minute. On 37th minute he scored the second goal for Roma, against Lecce. 4:0.
Heno said: I feel good about my game, but I could have done better. I like playing in Roma.
Roma coach: we want to keep Heno. He proved he's high-class.
Allison Halverson is an Armenian-American athlete who just got Armenian citizenship and wants to participate in Tokio-2020.
Her family is a 1915 Genocide escapee. "I'm proud of my new citizenship. My grandpa barely escaped the genocide by dressing in female clothes and taking a ferry to Elis Island. I'm excited for the new journey in Armenia," said the dual-citizen Allison.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181319 domestic violence in 2019
468 felony domestic abuse cases were launched in 2019. In 326 cases the charges were dropped: 129 for court acquittal and 197 for lack of evidence. http://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/278217/ no new water-thirsty fish farm licenses
No additional fish farm licenses have been issued in the past 1.5 years. Pashinyan has long complained that they drain Ararat Valley's freshwaters.
Nature Minister Eric:
For too long, profit was placed above the well being of the Ararat waters. Since 1984 there was a standard that water drainage shouldn't exceed 34 m3/second. Fish farms exceeded that. This resulted in a reduction of Ararat water reserves.
This is an example of why ignoring nature problems end up resulting in economic and social issues later. For every license given to a fish farm, we have a problem with agricultural irrigation, land quality, urban development, etc. No new licenses have been issued in the past 1.5 years except for one experimental firm that uses new technologies. The saved waters will be used on irrigation.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1006123.html Did a leopard really attack a villager?
Update: A few months ago a Yenoqavan man claimed he was ambushed by a rare mountain leopard while managing his cattle in a forest.
Nature experts examined the paw traces, collected hair samples and sent them to Germany, used hidden cameras, and concluded that the attacker was a lynx and not a leopard. (either way a very bad boy)
"This was a good opportunity for us to examine this area. We didn't know much about nature in here," said an expert.
https://armtimes.com/hy/article/181340 the "other" bad boys
6,000 stray ones live in Yerevan. 3,000 were sterilized. Right now they're a bit more aggressive because of the 2-week mating season (while yours is only 10 seconds).
"The new sterilization approach is a long-term solution and doesn't show results immediately. For 20 years, the dogs were exterminated, which brought no results," said the founder of Dingo Team NGO who is also a member of the Yerevan Municipality Council.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1006032.html monthly nominal wages in 2019
The average monthly nominal wages were 182.7k ($383) in 2019, says the State Committee.
1) Syunik Province: 267k
2) Yerevan: 201k
3) Ararat Province: 168k
Lowest) Shirak Province: 111k
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181349 new heart surgery
Normally, Armenian doctors do an open surgery to repair the heart's aortic valve. When the patient is elderly and there are risks with open surgery, a closed surgery is necessary.
Armenian doctors didn't know how to do a closed one, until recently. A team of Russian-Armenian experts helped train the Armenian doctors, and over the weekend, they did the second such surgery on an elderly patient in Norq Marash hospital. The patient is recovering.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1005894.html high-tech conference in UAE
High-Tech Minister Arshakyan went to UMEX/SimTEX 2020 expo show in UAE, gave a speech, discussed the ongoing high-tech development in Armenia, tax waivers, TUMO, Armenian scientists' past inventions, called for guests to invest in Armenia. Arshakyan received a "prize".
https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/181252 Swiss farming experience in Armenia
Education Ministry met reps from the Swiss Cooperation Office. The Office said: we've established 200 farming production chains in 6 provinces of Armenia in the past 10 years. We decided to expand this by providing relevant education to locals.
Education Ministry hopes this will help train experts in the butchering industry (the new tighter safety regulations kick in this year). More experts will be needed in other areas that recently became high-tech, such as shooting cloud-dispersers into the skies, installing hail-resistant nets, smart barns.
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/f8wysv/feb242020_daily_news_anticorruption_summary_from/
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