2020 January 22
Jan/22/2020 :: 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.
Traffic stats for 2017, 2018, 2019
Incidents: 3535, 4111, 4799
Injuries: 5179, 5950, 6801
Deaths: 279, 343, 341 (declined last year)
In 2019, 80 of the deaths and 628 injuries were pedestrian's fault.
The Economist's democracy index for 2019
Armenia 86th place (up from 103), Georgia 89, Azerbaijan 146. Armenia and Ukraine got a big jump.
Armenia's strength is the elections and pluralism. The weakness is political culture.
bullet in the window
Someone shot the window of judge Tatevik Grigoryan's office. She went to work, noticed a broken window then called the police. The police found that it was caused by a bullet that was stuck in the glass.
Supreme Court is investigating. Its member Bekmezyan says based on the way the bullet was blocked by glass, it indicates this was a ricochet bullet fired elsewhere, and not directed towards the judge's office. "The judge was calm and didn't believe it was related to her work."
Prosecutors also don't believe it was related to her work: the window had 2 layers. Only the outer layer was shattered. The judge ignored it since January 8th, which is when she returned to work from a vacation. Only in January 21st she noticed the bullet head and called the police.
A felony case is launched.
threats being taken seriously
QP MP Aren Mkrtchyan says he received death threats. He contacted the police.
The police chief disciplined a police officer and asked the Investigative Committee to launch a case on him after the officer wrote an angry Facebook post saying former HHK Justice Minister and CC chief Hrayr Tovmasyan was "going to be next" after NSS former chief Kutoyan committed suicide last week.
Update: earlier a QP MP said a group of Kocharyan supporters assaulted his friend and threatened him, over an incident in which they criticized Kocharyan for sending some flowers, which raised the ire of Kocharyan supporters. Supporters Sheko and his friend from Gyumri were arrested. Today they posted a 1mln bail and got out.
Update: the investigators and prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to take Serj and associates to the court regarding the 0.5bln alleged embezzlement of farmers' aid. The case was sent to court.
Roboserj articles are writing that 1st deputy PM Tigran Avinyan is the one who got rid of former NSS chief Arthur Vanetyan, with the help of a journalist and Informed Citizens NGO chief Ionesyan. They convinced Pashinyan to fire Vanetsyan, say the sources claiming to be familiar with the matter.
Last year an assassination attempt was made on former MP Shshi Melo. Someone tried to blow up his car on the Yerevan-Sevan freeway.
Shamshyan outlet says the suspect turned himself in and had charges pressed against him, and tnhat he is a 50yo man named Petros Sahakyan. The investigators deny the rumors that anyone turned themselves in.
Shamshyan's earlier story said the following:
In 2018 the suspect allegedly got into a fight in Melo's house. The fight was a continuation of a 2017 story, during which members of the criminal subculture met Melo and demanded him to purchase products for his business from people associated with the gang. Melo refused. A thieve-in-law broke a bottle on Melo's head.
It is not clear whether the investigators denied the whole story or the part where the suspect turned himself in.
criminal subculture bill
Update: the Parliament passed the QP bill criminalizing the holding of thieve-in-law subculture title, organizing and running criminal rings, encouraging others to join it. BHK voted against it. LHK was neutral. More in yesterday's post.
corrupt officials and their families
Update: The Parliament passed govt's "banking secrecy" bill to authorize law enforcement to get a court warrant and to check the banking info of a serious crime suspect's relatives. Sometimes corruption is done with the help of family members and investigators' hands are currently tied. More in yesterday's post.
soldier aid bill
The Parliament passed a govt bill to allow wounded soldiers to qualify for special disability pension even if they don't apply for it within 5 years of the incident. This will also ensure the law meets the Constitution.
The Parliament rejected a LHK initiative to appoint members for a group tasked with investigating garbage truck donations to Yerevan city. Ruling QP accused LHK of an unconstitutional partisan move, saying "the law says such issues need to be handled by city's Council".
LHK earlier attributed garbage truck donations to pay-for-play. Mayor accused LHK of lying to cause political harm. Prosecutors found no evidence of corruption. More in yesterday's post.
LHK chief yesterday: "Watch what happens if this proposal is rejected."
QP MP: "it's almost as if LHK doesn't like that Yerevan's garbage issue was solved."
QP boycotted the vote that would appoint members to the group, saying they won't participate in the initiative. Insufficient 39 AYE votes were cast.
LHK chief Edmon Marukyan accused QP of not having enough will to investigate the donations. QP accused Marukyan of trying to create an unconstitutional body and improper conduct.
Pashinyan was asked to comment: the proposition was unconstitutional. When LHK proposed it, Yerevan municipality sent me a letter notifying that only Yerevan's Council has the authority to create such groups, not the Parliament. I forwarded the letter to the Justice Ministry. They analyzed and concluded it's against the law about the separation of powers.
Pashinyan about SIS:
In the first 10 months of 2019, the SIS fought against corruption and recovered a sum equaling the money recovered in its entire past history.
Still, it's going too slow. We're making amendments to the law to speed up the anti-corruption fight.
Pashinyan about Universal Healthcare:
LHK: what do you think about the proposed Universal Healthcare? Do you have the money to pay for it, or should there be a new tax on workers?
Pashinyan: We have different opinions in the cabinet. I haven't made up my mind yet. Healthcare Minister Torosyan published it to create a public discussion. No Armenian citizen should have hospital doors shut at them, everyone should have proper health.
The new income tax cuts give 2.5-4bln/mo back to workers.
President Sarkissian is still in Davos.
He met the reps from Qatari Investment Fund valued at $335bln. They spoke about the new visa-free regime and possible cooperation.
He met Mitsubishi reps. Spoke about his ATOM (Advanced Tomorrow) high tech initiative in Armenia, invited to cooperate. They also spoke about nuclear waste management.
He met Georgian PM Gakharia and discussed trade.
He met the president of Iraqi Kurdistan Barzani and spoke about geopolitics, Armenians in Iraq, tech cooperation.
He had a brief meeting with Apple's CEO Tim Apple to discuss tech.
Armenia: YAY! We removed the visa regime with China!
China: coughs in Chinese
Education Minister: we're still good, no need to close borders with China due to the recent coronavirus outbreak.
158,000 people visited Sevan's peninsula in Jun-Nov/2019. More numbers inside:
1st deputy PM Tigran Avinyan: the government is still too big and inefficient. We need more optimizations. (earlier they cut and merged some ministries)
Update on the new law requiring slaughtering be done in licensed conditions
An agricultural expert says the current issue of animal owners not having nearby licensed butcheries can be solved with mobile butcheries that travel around. The govt can coordinate their movement based on reported demand by locals. Each vehicle costs 20mln. A private business could buy a vehicle and make 3mln/mo by butchering 20 animals per day.
Pashinyan about butcheries:
The implementation of the law will be delayed until July-2020 to give more time for butcheries and farmers to adjust. Their complaints about not having enough butcheries are valid. We're facing this issue because the ongoing construction of butcheries is taking too long.
By February 6th we'll create a plan to subsidize the creation of more licensed butcheries.
After July, this topic won't be discussed anymore. This waiver won't apply to Yerevan's supermarkets and restaurants.
Photo of a mobile butchery: https://armtimes.com/hy/article/178652
Pashinyan complained about food production standards in Armenia:
We're used to milking cows with hand while wearing boots, in an aluminum container with a certain amount of cow shit in it.
Today we have companies that work with companies from the Netherlands to produce cheese. They need milk. They can't buy milk from Armenians because the standards are too low, so they have to import milk powder. Large Armenian buyers are ready to offer good money for high-quality milk.
Last year we created the Smart Barn subsidy program. We teach farmers how to use tech, help them meet standards, provide a loan (0% interest in bordering areas). We also offer a loan for cattle.
For 1,000 poor families, we buy cattle, food, provide them specialists, plus 25k/mo for expenses.
Today we have sour creams made of soy but advertised as of milk origin. When the wife tells the hubby to bring some sour cream on his way back home, the hubby doesn't need to carry a magnifier on him to find out if it's real dairy or not. We need standards, including color-coding on packages. White containers should contain real milk products.
Pashinyan on Kutoyan's death:
There is nothing the govt could do to prevent former NSS chief Kutoyan's death. The case will be fully resolved if his family cooperates with the investigation. (to find out why he killed himself)
Pashinyan on wages:
In 2020 we'll spend 71bln more on salaries and aid for teachers, doctors, forest protectors, special groups. Meanwhile, only 1bln is spent on govt officials' salary hikes.
Education Minister Arayik Harutyunyan about TUMO:
Angela Merkel's 2018 visit was a big success for cooperation with TUMO. Negotiations began. TUMO has just signed an agreement with the German KfW bank. They'll open centers not only in Berlin but in other German cities as well.
In 2020 we'll spend 3.5x more to subsidize transport fees for teachers and students. 5x more schools are in the program. 3x more teachers.
Cancer surgery was made free recently
Healthcare Minister Arsen Torosyan says the number of surgeries went from 979 in 2018, to 4428 in 2019. THat's a 352% growth.
They plan to launch a new program soon to detect and treat breast cancer.
plastic ban incoming
The sale of 50-micron-thick plastic bags in grocery shops will be prohibited beginning in 2022.
Armenians trash 12,000 tons of polyethylene bags annually. The ban will reduce waste by as much as 30%.
Plastic producers have 2 years to adjust their products to meet the ingredient requirement. The govt will enforce the ban with micrometer-checking devices.
Pashinyan about New Year spending:
The 271mln we invested in promoting the New Year celebrations has paid off. There were tourists everywhere. We had 9.3bln more trade turnover than last time. Small and medium businesses benefitted. 307mln returned to us in the form of taxes. Next year we'll spend more.
Lebanese-Armenian Vardine Ohanyan will be the Minister of Sport and Youth in the new Lebanon govt. She'll be the first female Armenian Minister.
Update: Andi Madadian's channel uploaded video from his Hollywood Star opening ceremony. He speaks in Armenian and Farsi.
Armenian opera singer Ruzanna Mantashyan has been invited to sing in the German opera again, after an earlier cancellation, which raised complains about an alleged pressure by an Azeri singer Youssif Ayvazov to block Mantashyan for her Armenian ethnicity. An EU based Armenian diaspora group got involved.
Armenian-Italian Misha Sukias is the new host of a famous Italian cooking show Camionisti in Trattoria aired on Nove TV.
The host travels around cities with truck drivers and visits local small restaurants that serve home-style food. He then becomes Gordon Ramsey for a moment.
no safe spaces for cars
Yerevan municipality is gimping the parking spots in the main Republic Square. Two large portions of the square won't be park-able. One is in front of the museum building and the fountains. The area could soon become an archeological site.
bikes > cars
Bicycle-sharing MIMO BIKE and YerevanRide launched in Armenia last summer. Residents have been noticing green and yellow bikes locked in various parts of Yerevan and wondering about it.
MIMO rep says they were the first in Armenia and had to explain to residents what it is, how to install the app to use it for unlocking the bike. They managed to win regular customers, some of whom ditched their cars. Thousands of people registered with the app last summer.
Right now they have 100 bikes in the Center. This year they plan to add more. People call from other districts and complain that there are no bikes in their neighborhoods. Many pleas are made from Gyumri.
One time they had to call the police to recover a bike because someone took it home with them.
The ride costs 10 Dram per minute, 5 for students, discounts on weekends, 10k for a monthly pass, 50k for an annual pass.
YerevanRide rep says they registered 40k people in the first few months. He wants to change residents' mentality about transport to compete against the 500,000 registered cars in the city. They have daily, monthly, and annual plans.
They have bikes in each district. Fees are better suited for longer distances, 100 Dram for 30 minutes.
They traveled around schools to recruit customers. Managed to teach a 78-year-old տատի how to ride one. She's a regular now. For the most part, people keep the bikes in good shape, but a small percentage does damage. They want better cooperation with the city but so far none exists.
This cat wanted to be adopted:
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/esh1wo/jan222020_daily_news_collection_from_armenia_stay/
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