2020 January 13
Jan/13/2020 :: Daily news collection from Armenia :: Stay informed about the Anti-Corruption busts, 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.
In today's news: NSS chief Arthur Vanetsyan and the former regime; Armenia's waste management and recycling system and what's being done; Sports; Healthcare; IRS and economy; a lot more
more accusations against former NSS chief Arthur Vanetsyan
Former NSS (National Security Services) chief Arthur Vanetsyan earlier ragequit, accusing Pashinyan of crossing the line, telling him to "stop". His complaint was most likely about the high number of arrests done against the members of the Roboserj regime. He quit around the time when the authorities were preparing to make new busts.
Vanetsyan was then accused of cozying up with Serj's son-in-law, media/mining magnate Mikael Minasyan. The pair were allegedly seen together in Russia, photos were circulated, but later it became apparent that Vanetyan was with Serj's media propagandist Ara Saghatelyan. Vanetsyan denied colluding with the former regime, saying that he's just friends with some of its members.
Roboserj outlets were "credited" with launching a mass media campaign against Pashinyan's family members. False rumors were spread about 1st lady Anna Hakobyan, transport, hotel stays, jets, helicopter rides, etc.
ArmTimes outlet (managed by Pashinyan's family) reports that according to their sources, Arthur Vanetsyan is behind coordinating the media attacks against the Pashinyan family.
ArmTimes believes Vanetsyan also finances these operations. The outlet doesn't know when exactly Vanetshyan allegedly got involved with this campaign, but they believe it's most likely while he was still the NSS chief.
Armtimes writes that a Roboserj Website and Vanetsyan began cooperating in late-2018. This was made possible with the effort of Aram Vardanyan, aka Vstrechi Aper.
Who is Vstrechi Aper?
He is a member of the criminal subculture and was earlier arrested as part of an investigation about a 2017 kidnapping and assault incident. He was extradited to Armenia for a trial. However, his case was cut short and he was let go. The official explanation is that he would have qualified for the 2018 mass amnesty.
What else do we know about Vstrechi Aper to give us some context before today's story?
In August-2019, the Informed Citizens NGO chief Daniel Ionesyan claimed that Vstrechi Aper and Arthur Vanetsyan were close friends. Ionesyan had long complained that the National Security Services chief had friends from the criminal subculture. The claims about Vstrechi Aper and Vanetsyan being allies in the media field were first made around this time, so ArmTimes isn't breaking any "exclusive" info. Some of this was known, but the outlet provides additional info.
Back to ArmTimes' new story about Vanetsyan - Vstrechi Aper - Roboserj collusion
There have long been rumors that while Vanetsyan was the chief of the NSS Erebuni branch back in the days, he was under the "protection" of criminal subculture player Vstrechi Aper.
Vstrechi Aper had to return a favor to Vanetsyan (by helping Vanetsyan to cozy up to the unnamed Roboserj outlet) because, at some point, Aper was in legal trouble and had to escape Armenia after some citizen approached Pashinyan and complained that Aper had kidnapped him. Aper immediately left Armenia after Pashinyan and Vanetsyan held a conversation about this case. (Armtimes is implying that Vanetyan informed his friend Vstrechi Aper to leave Armenia before he gets arrested; an insider leak.)
Despite Aper's escape, the police were able to track him down and arrest him abroad. He got extradited. Yet surprisingly the judge refused to issue detention permission, so Aper was legally free.
The Roboserj outlet in question (which colludes with Vanetsyan, Armtimes won't give the name) then teamed up with Vanetsyan and became his PR machine, while throwing dirt at Pashinyan administration, with the main targets being Pashinyan's wife and daughter. The Roboserj outlet would occasionally mildly criticize Vanetsyan to make it seem they weren't "friendly" with Vanetsyan. Some information the Roboserj outlet received was insider info passed to them from inside NSS. For example, car license info.
Vahagn Boyajyan is the man behind this PR and dirt throwing campaign. He was Vanetsyan's media guy during his NSS leadership.
Before quitting NSS, Vanetsyan gave a souvenir weapon to Boyajyan, which is a symbolic gesture that is done to senior and distinguished employees. Boyajyan, however, was a newbie with a few months of experience, yet he got one from Vanetsyan. (Vanetsyan gave it to him because they're BFFs)
The mastermind of this idea for Vanetsyan, Babajanyan and Vstrechi Aper to work together, is Ara Saghatelyan, who is Serj's main media propagandist. This is the man who met Vanetsyan in Russia a few months ago and was filmed from a hidden camera.
Propagandist Ara Saghatelayan is close friends with Serj's son-in-law Mikael Minasyan. He is also childhood friends with Vanetsyan and helped Vanetsyan with his career.
Serj's propagandist Saghatelyan asked Vanetsyan to "shield Serj from Pashinyan". (Note: Vanetsyan publicly told Pashinayn to "stop" before his infamous ragequit from NSS. Up until that point, everyone was wondering why Serj hasn't been charged yet. Serj got charged only after Vanetsyan was gone.)
In exchange for Vanetsyan's effort not to arrest Serj, Saghatelyan agreed to help Vanetsyan to become politically powerful by undermining the Pashinyan administration and promoting Vanetsyan. Vanetsyan is being aided by Saghatelyan and Mikael Minasyan to make this happen.
Fake social media accounts are part of their plan. The idea is to spread rumors about Pashinyan is mentally unfit (my bad I do this too sometimes), that apparently Pashinyan was going to start a big war which would take 30,000 (date of the alleged war that was supposed to happen has passed). The idea was to strengthen the conviction among the public that Pashinyan is mentally unfit, and that his removal is a matter of national security.
ArmTimes believes that Vanetsyan's infamous ragequit message was written by Mikael Minasyan. (At the time Pashinyan said this, but it was viewed more as a rhetorical criticism.)
End of ArmTimes' article.
TLDR of the accusations:
Former NSS chief Vanetsyan was Serj's secret rat within the system, worked to undermine certain operations, leaked info to help Roboserj allies. Helped Roboserj outlets to spread negative propaganda against Pashinyan.
Relevant info: Last year the Informed Citizens NGO chief speculated that there was no 2018 phone hack and that Vanetsyan could have set up the phone conversation leak with the SIS chief in order to aid Kocharyan.
Criminal subculture player Vstrechi Aper denies helping Vanetsyan to cozy up with the Roboserj outlet. "Don't drag me into political games", he said.
Pashinyan's daughter Mariam:
We became friends and neighbors with Vanetsyan family in a short time. We used to have fun, take care of dogs, and dine with his children. We would visit each other for tea. I had the impression that they were genuine friends. It turns out Vanetsyan has been coordinating the media attacks against our family. What's worse, is he could have done this while he was the NSS chief.
Arthur Vanetsyan responds:
The accusations made by Pashinyan family's sources are false. It would have been below my man's dignity. Family is a holy concept for me, and the idea to harm someone by harming their family is unacceptable for me. This isn't the first time such attempts are made to discredit me. My lawyers are looking into it.
P.S. Mariam Pashinyan, darling, don't insert yourself into adults' games.
Mariam Pashinyan responds to Vanetsyan:
Arthur, when you say your man's dignity doesn't allow you to say certain things, it surprises me, because for the past 4 months you've threatened to "speak up". Speak, then. If you say family is holy, then why do you spread lies about it? In the past, you tried to unnecessarily underline your "loyalty" to our family. We've always viewed your family as a friend, and not a "subordinate". (NSS reports directly to PM's office). You aren't speaking up because you have nothing to say, and every word will be a word against yourself. Send greetings to [Vanetsyan's family members].
Informed Citizens NGO Daniel Ionesyan, who was [among the] first last year to publicly raise the topic of Vanetsyan being friends with former regime members and criminal subculture members, gave an interview, during which he said:
I not only fully believe that ArmTimes' sources are correct about Vanetsyan, but I, too, raised the topic last year. Vstrechi Aper is tasked with PR-ing Vanetsyan.
Q: Has Vanetsyan broken any laws?
A: I think he did when he used official NSS resources to demand a media outlet to retract a negative thing written against him last year (someone wrote something about Vanetsyan, Vanetsyan called it a lie, then NSS' official website asked the author to retract it, the argument is that Vanetsyan should have demanded a retraction personally without involving NSS). I won't be surprised if Vanetsyan eventually gets charged for this.
Q: Why did Vanetsyan go "rogue"?
A: Vanetsyan has big ambitions. When the govt changed, Vanetsyan was hoping to become the Parliament speaker, but Ararat Mirzoyan took that job.
Q: The story was published by Pashinyan's family outlet. Does this mean this news also reflects Pashinyan's personal views?
A: I beleive so. I'm glad that after us raising alarm about Vanetsyan for so long, Pashinyan finally understands this.
Q: Any comment about Vanetsyan saying he won't speak because of man's dignity and family being holy?
A: We all know what his "man's dignity" is worth, while he was being promoted by his family within the system (he was apparently promoted in the system by his mother?). With Vanetsyan's knowledge, NSS agents were sent to former SOC chief David Sanasaryan's wife's workplace and children's school to illegally collect info on Sanasaryan's family members (Sanasaryan has beef with Vanetsyan, has long insisted he was unfairly targeted by Vanetsyan, he remains a suspect as part of a medical equipment contract fixing story).
Now Vanetsyan is saying he respects family. Vanetsyan didn't get the job as NSS chief for being good, he was just lucky. He was a low-profile employee until he got lucky and received the job after the revolution. He is an ungrateful man.
Vanetsyan is currently working with Tashir Group's Karen Karapetyan (Samvel Karapetyan?) to create his political party. Multiple sources confirm this.
Today, some NSS employees are working to undermine democracy and the PM. This was bolstered under Vanetsyan administration, but now it's milder after he quit. NSS's administraiton is in a sad state. There aren't many qualified trustworthy people who can be appointed as leaders.
Q: why is ArmTimes publishing the article now?
A: Maybe they got the info just now. There is some info about Vanetsyan that I myself received only very recently. It's about the infamous story about Pashinyan allegedly having a psycho-paper showing he's mentally unfit. That fake news was spread by NSS agents and some criminal subculture members.
Q: why do you believe Vanetsyan doesn't like civil society NGOs?
A: Not only Vanetsyan but also some NSS employees. They don't like the ongoing institutional reforms. Some NSS agents found out that Pashinyan was going to appoint Rustam Badasyan as the Justice Minister, and used a new site to spread attacks against Badasyan's persona because Badasyan would actually start major reforms. (when Pashinyan fired former Minister Artak Zeynalyan, he said it was because he needed the institutional reforms to accelerate, which is when he appointed Rustam Badasyan). The representatives of the former corrupt regime aren't interested in these reforms so they deal blow to the individuals behind the reforms, instead of publicly criticizing the idea of reforms.
End of Ionesyan interview.
🍿 <--- tastes good
Tag: #ArthurVanetsyan , #NSSleaks
Azerbaijan & Armenia
Earlier Azeri army tried to do engineering work to improve their positions near the northeastern Tavush region.
Armenian side opened fire to stop the advancements. One Azeri soldier was killed.
On Saturday one Armenian soldier was wounded in the region. Armenian army blames any future escalation on the Azeri side.
Azeri opposition leader Ari Kerimli criticized Aliyev's administration for lying to the public about time working against Armenia. "The 'hungry Armenians' just purchased powerful fighter jets. A new road is being built between Armenia and Karabakh. New settlements are being prepared."
Today is the 30th anniversary of the 1990 Baku massacres of Armenians.
Pashinyan: we aren't going to let something like that happen again. From the 250k population, only 40k were left in Baku. They were a peaceful population not posing threat to Azerbaijan, but they were targeted for their ethnicity. To this day there is no remorse or respect by Azerbaijan. Those Azeris who dared to speak were persecuted.
Armenian opera singer Hasmik Papyan says the Azeri singer Youssif Ayvazov refused to sing with Ruzan Mantashyan in Europe because the latter is an ethnic Armenian. Papyan plans to send a note of protest to Drezden opera theater.
Update: There was apparently a misunderstanding by people involved in this story.
2019 was an "unprecedented" clam year on the borders. The deaths reached the minimum in recent history, said Pashinyan.
Later, Helsinki Committee's Vanadzor branch chief Ishkhanyan and two other outlets did their independent calculations and said that there were other years when the deaths were lower.
Then a fact-checker claimed Pashinyan was correct about the death count. PM apparently used Defense Ministry's official numbers, while others used prosecutors' numbers, and came up with contradicting info. The fact-checkers insist that the prosecutors' numbers are more accurate.
Healthcare Ministry audited schools to check if they comply with heating and sanitary conditions. Several schools were issued a warning for being too cold for students, not having enough restrooms and for being in poor shape.
The law requires rooms to be 18-22C.
In Feb-2019 the Healthcare Ministry made ischemic stroke surgery free. 382 patients have used the subsidized system so far.
Ministry held a meeting with industry members, including Alberta Canada university neurologist, to create a plan to develop the treatment program in provinces, and to use clinics to prevent strokes.
A bi-annual charity event took place in Gyumri. 500 Russian soldiers and their families donated 200L blood. 5,000 have participated since the charity's creation in 2011.
In 2019, 36 cops were disciplined and 28 were fired.
IRS, Sales receipts, Border imports, Taxes
Armenians import used cars to resell them in other EAEU countries.
2018: 64k imported
2019: 189k imported
The sharp rise is due to the fact that 2019 was the last year before EAEU rules raise car import tariffs, making most used cars more expensive.
IRS collected >1.4trln in 2019. That's 7.5% higher than predicted. In addition, some money was collected but refunded to the taxpayer.
44% growth in collections vs 2017. When Pashinyan got elected he predicted it would rise by 30-40%.
967 people quit or were laid off. 600 were hired. (IRS has a large workforce, they handle border transactions too).
Employee wages went up. The salary bonus budget went from 5bln to 5.8bln. When they paid 5bln in bonuses in 2018, there was criticism by the opposition. IRS boss believes it's not a good thing when high earners are vilified; the agency has to retain professional staff. In 2019 they paid even more in bonuses, but there wasn't as much criticism as before. Chief believes it's due to dialogue with the public. He says the goal is to secure a decent living wage for employees.
Beginning in 2020, the small micro-businesses with <24mln annual turnover don't pay tax.
IRS chief warns businesses not to game the system by splitting their large businesses into smaller pieces for each to be below 24mln to evade taxes. Says IRS has tools to detect such evasions.
Immediately after the news, the Ծամոն & Սեմուշկա Ծախող Տատի LLC organized riots outside of IRS headquarters. "We have a network of 35 tatis pushing 50mln worth merch annually. I want to be able to evade taxes by registering each tati as a separate business from Virgin Islands", complained one desperate business owner with shrinking margins.
Another protester tati said, "The change won't really harm my business tho, because I've always paid taxes, I just don't qualify for this new waiver". When asked about why she was protesting then, she said, "I don't, բալամ ջան, it's just warm outside after yesterday's snow. I'm having a nice walk."
Someone should fact check this riot story, it seems fake. Me hope me not get arrested.
IRS chief Ananyan:
32% more sales receipts were printed during the 2020 New Year holidays vs last year's period.
22% higher trade turnover.
The growth was much higher in provinces than in Yerevan. Syunik province printed 124% more sales receipts with 97% more trade. Gyumri printed 99% more receipts with 70% more trade.
We have unprecedented growth in businesses' willingness to pay taxes.
Armenia soccer's attacking midfielder Marcos Pizelli is retiring at the age of 35. He received an injury while playing in Brazil, was told he'd need surgery to return, but he refused and decided to retire.
gg Marcos 👏
Armenian Freestyle wrestlers won 2 silver and 4 bronze medals in Takhti Cup held in Iran.
Armenia skiers won 2 medals in Developing Nations Cup held in Serbia.
Former president Serj and mayor Taron Margaryan visited the chess academy to observe the Andranik Margaryan Cup competition.
Roma wants to keep Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He is currently in a "trial" period in Roma. They offered Arsenal $10mln to seal the deal, but Arsenal refused. Now Roma is offering $14mln.
Travel & Tourism
TheTravel.com: "20 Ancient Sites Older Than Stonehenge (Worth Planning Your Next Trip Around)"
Armenia's Zorats Karer is mentioned.
Ryanair low-cost airlines will begin its flights to Armenia with a rough start. Italian employees are protesting about something at home, so some delays are expected. First batch of tickets sold out.
Civil Aviation chief Tatevik Revazyan says Armenia will soon have 16 routes to Europe instead of current 7.
"Before you buy tickets from a low-coster, remember that they'll bait you to buy addons, insurance, they'll have strict luggage limits, etc."
Armenia Airways decided to stop its Yerevan-Tehran flight after Iran admitted that its military mistakenly shot a jet. Civil Aviation committee advises against flying over Iran and Iraq for now.
Next day Armenian Airways received an assurance by Iranian govt that flights will be safe. They'll resume flights tomorrow.
Singer Sirusho has a documentary "Armat Tour" where she travels to various Armenian diasporas.
Pt1 - Belgium https://youtu.be/mtfu4oGzNDw
Pt2 - Belgium https://youtu.be/20ULI0TYLts
It finally snowed in Yerevan yesterday. Municipality tried a new approach by pouring salt and sand before the snow fell, to prevent ice from forming on the streets. This will be done in select areas.
Some residents were satisfied with the snow cleaning operations, uploading pics of clean streets.
Yerevan's newly purchased 1,000 metal garbage bins have arrived. These are supposed to be sturdier and won't melt when torched.
Education Minister Arayik Harutyunayn:
Kids shouldn't sit under all-day camera surveillance in kindergartens. It creates psychological problems.
Proposed education reforms will allow kindergartens to accept children under the age of 6. Right now it's limited to >2-3 yo.
now some serious trash-talking
Govt is working on a plan to reform the trash collection and processing system.
Experts from the nature protection center of American University of Armenia are developing the new system.
The university conducted several examinations. Some are their initiative, some are aided by the Swedish government. The goal is to have a new trash collection and processing system across Armenia with environmental and economic friendliness.
An interview with Harutyun Alpetyan, an expert from the Nature Center of the university:
Q: It's the first of a kind system for Armenia. What is this շրջանաձեւ տնտեսության գործիքների կիրառում thing?
A: We need to reduce the creation of trash before we think about recycling it. Some things can be reused. The current traditional system is consisted of recycling and reusing.
Recycling: appliances are repaired, the paper is recycled, glass is processed.
Reusing is the dark part. We need to assess how widespread it is among the public. It's possible that Armenia inherited high levels of reuse culture from USSR.
Europe talks a lot about reusing trash. Մեր երկիր dairy firm in Armenia does this, they advertise on bottles that if you collect 30 bottles they'll come to pick it up and give you 50 AMD or some milk. This needs to be advertised more broadly.
Q: 24 firms and groups are mentioned as being part of the proposed recycling and reusing operations. How come some are unknown to the public?
A: there are >20 processing firms in Armenia who prefer not to attract attention. Maybe some are breaking environmental or employee rules. It's important not to glorify recycling firms too much, they pollute during the recycling process.
There are laws that encourage recyclers and those who import low-pollution technologies, but not many are taking advantage of the law. We advise the govt to reform this law to make it more usable. Govt can contact recyclers, offer them the benefits, then monitor their work to make sure pollution coming from them is in norms.
Q: it's been said that Armenia doesn't have enough trash to make recycling a profitable business. Does your examination show that there could be recycling after doing the waste separation?
A: we, locals, and Swedes conducted 5 exams on waste in Armenia to find out its "ingredients". We need more exams to conclude whether it's good enough for serious recycling business. Sometimes private firms do their own exams before they invest in recycling. Our exam is done for the govt to understand the broad picture.
Q: What did the exams reveal?
A: 50-60% is kitchen waste. Typical for a developing nation. If this accumulates in a waste field, it turns into a methane gas, which turns into dirty water and contaminates underground water.
If we remove this organic waste from waste fields, it'll be a huge environmental relief, and it'll make further resorting easier.
It'll help if people separate this organic waste from other things at home. Europe aims to solve this issue entirely by 2030.
1-4% rubber & leather
2-6% textile (thanks Lfik)
It is entirely possible that Armenia might not have enough waste to make recycling profitable, but this is also a public health and environmental problem and not just about business. It needs to be done either way.
Q: any solutions to neutralize the threat from dangerous waste?
A: There are currently no areas where you can take this type of waste for neutralization. This includes electronics, chemicals, mercury, engines, some bulbs, and batteries.
Batteries are very bad when they reach a waste field. Sometimes people keep them at home in a box, which is safer.
Current law is hostile and expensive towards those who could offer a solution. Too many regulations requiring you to go through lengthy steps to get a license to create a facility for storing such waste.
Q: will product manufacturers be involved in this process?
Manufacturers should pay a "tax" for creating products that easily turn into a waste. Battery and tire importers should take steps to prevent their items from ending up in waste fields. Bottled water producers can team-up and create a firm tasked with collecting bottles.
Q: which part of this is the hardest to solve?
A: reducing the creation of waste. We trash less than Europe, but we can do better. Plastic bag producers say "just improve recycling instead of reducing bag usage", but that's not enough. We need to reduce waste.
To reduce the dangerous gas-y kitchen waste we need to promote the "Don't buy more than you consume" slogan.
Q: you also examined the possibility of using pyrolysis to burn waste at a low temp without oxygen. Any results?
Not suitable for Armenia. The process itself is new and has flaws. It's rarely used elsewhere.
Q: About the lack of waste fields. There are plans to build new fields in Kotayk and Gegharquniq. Also, a 32-hectare replacement facility next to the existing Nubarashen field, after the Nubarashen field is closed. Why do they need to build new ones?
A: EU gave $26mln loan&grant to close the Nubarashen field and build a new one with a processing facility that has high standards. We need to decide what tpye of waste this new field will receive, and for how long. If the field will receive organic waste, then its side-facility will have a technology to process the waste and turn it into biogas and compost.
Tag: #Recycling, #GarbageCollection, #Garbage.
Pashinyan commented about garbage collection. "The problem is that right now we only worry about moving the trash from point A to point B, but we don't care about what happens at point B. We need a better system that processes the trash afterward."
Wages and Maternity pay
Poverty is at the lowest level since the beginning of the stat collection.
23.5% are poor (< 45k AMD), out of which 1% are extremely poor (< 25k AMD) and 10.6% are moderately poor ( <35k AMD). Poverty is down 2.2%.
19.9% of Yerevan is poor. 30.3% of other cities. 21.3% of villages.
Reported population is 2,965,000 million. The decline (emigration and natural) slowed down last year.
Govt earlier decided to raise the childbirth reward payment by 2x-3x. In addition, monthly aid rose from 18.5k to 26k, paid each month until the kid turns 2.
In villages, those mothers who do not work will receive 26k/mo. Those who work will receive 53k.
a flower market in the morning
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/eoa1sq/jan132020_daily_news_collection_from_armenia_stay/
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