2021 April 9

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

Apr/9/2021: (1) Baku-Yerevan plane arrives without the expected POWs (2) Sotq gold mine: Azeri soldiers retreat for buffer zone (3) Azerbaijan's jihadists complain about not receiving wages (4) Geopolitics (5) Georgian poll (6) Bills to relax gun control, paycheck tax, army age limit, student draft
by ar_david_hh


Your 10-minute Friday report in 2503 words.

jihadists recruited by Azerbaijan and Turkey complain about not receiving salaries

A group of militants from the Syria-based "Suleiman Shah" cell organized a protest with complaints that they haven't received salaries for months, after participating in the Karabakh war.

ANFnews outlet shared the video of the complaint. The militants accuse the cell leader Abu Hamsha of receiving the salary funds from Turkey but not distributing it to the fighters. (press F for food)

Jihadist: we went to Karabakh alongside the Turkish state. We have ambitions. Brigade leader Abu Hamsha stole our money and the money belonging to martyrs' families. We don't even have enough to eat. This is unacceptable. (F)

Video: https://twitter.com/LindseySnell/status/1380451580412096512

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048574.html

Azerbaijan's refusal to return POWs

Yesterday we learned about reports that a Baku-Yerevan flight was scheduled to repatriate several Armenian POWs after series of AM-RU-AZ meetings. Similar late-night flights with peacekeeper Muradov have been held in the past. According to BHK Naira Zohrabyan, the rumors that there would be such flight with a few dozen POWs had been circulating for a while now but no official date had ever been given. The repatriation rumor was shared yesterday by pro-government circles. Family members went to the airport with the hope to greet them.

Later it was revealed that no POWs were present in the jet when it touched down in Yerevan. Deputy PM Avinyan criticized Azerbaijan for delaying the return of POWs again. A QP MP apologized to the families for the false hope, saying the repatriation rumor was not officially confirmed but they had high hopes.

Parliamentary Security Committee Chief Andranik: there was an agreement but it was broken for unknown reasons. The head of the peacekeeping mission Rustam Muradov was in the airplane and was supposed to accompany POWs. If there were no plans to bring POWs, why would they send a jet with Muradov? [Muradov later said he did not plan to bring POWs and that the reporters were false]. Azerbaijan likely wants to use POWs as a bargaining chip again, primarily by increasing tensions within Armenia. //

The families of POWs organized a protest in Shirak province and in front of a government building with demands for news on why the POWs weren't returned. They closed roads in Shirak and tried to forcefully enter the Defense Ministry building in Yerevan.

Pashinyan invited a group of parents to the government building for discussions. A group of 54 later met the Defense Minister Vagharshak.

The Human Rights Ombudsman contacted the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe regarding the return of POWs. The note mentioned Azerbaijan's violation of the ECHR court order.

Various public figures began discussing what exactly happened with the flight. Some believe that there was an official agreement to return POWs after the Pashinyan-Putin meeting but Aliyev changed his mind under Turkey's pressure, and that peacekeeper chief Muradov was forced to claim there was no scheduled repatriation upon landing in Yerevan to defend Russia's reputation [as in the case of Iskander when Russia claimed none were used during the war despite evidence to contrary]. Others believe false information was shared to increase internal tensions, or for PR. BHK MP Zohrabyan suggests suspending the negotiations over regional trade unblocking until Azerbaijan returns the POWs.

Chief peacekeeper Rustam Muradov will likely hold a meeting with Pashinyan soon.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048522.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048501.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048524.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048527.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048550.html , https://factor.am/357547.html , https://youtu.be/ThAGiyLU1-Q , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/210987 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/211010 , https://www.civilnet.am/news/591527/ձեր-պաշտոնյաները-թյուրիմացության-մեջ-են-գցում-բնակչությանը․-մուրադով․-hraparak-am/ , https://www.civilnet.am/news/591526/որևէ-մեկի-մտքով-չի-կարող-անցնել՝-օգտագործել-գերիների-թեման-վարկանիշի-համար․-ավինյանի-գրասենյակ/ , https://youtu.be/xfb5sfqeZFE?t=5 , https://factor.am/357677.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/211026 , https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/291918/

Azeri soldiers retreat to create a buffer zone in Sotq gold mine territory

Sotq mine in Gegharquniq found itself on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. That did not stop the mining but the volume of operations was reduced after Azeris set up a base on their side. The miner had to build a bypass road for its trucks.

Mine employees revealed that the Azeri troops pulled back from their positions. The GeoProMining official confirmed the report, saying it was a planned move by both sides to retreat ~50 meters to create a buffer zone.

The official said the Armenian side did its part earlier while Azeris followed suit yesterday.

https://hetq.am/hy/article/129502

rumors & rebuttals: Defense Ministry denied hosting a delegation from Azerbaijan and Turkey in Yerevan

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048519.html

geopolitics

Putin and Erdogan spoke about the Artsakh conflict.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048564.html

Italian Premier referred to Erdogan as a dictator. Turkey summoned the Italian ambassador for explanation.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048516.html

Ukrainian president went to Turkey to meet Erdogan, and will soon meet Angela Merkel and Macron to discuss the escalation in eastern Ukraine. The US sent a military envoy to eastern Ukraine.

https://factor.am/357442.html , https://factor.am/357476.html , https://factor.am/357546.html

polls in Georgia about foreign relations

What do you think about the quality of relations with Armenia?

64% positive, 22% neutral, 9% negative

Who is the most important political partner of Georgia?

17% Azerbaijan, 13% Turkey, 11% Armenia.

Do you support NATO membership?

59% strongly yes, 19% somewhat yes.

When do you think Georgia could join NATO?

53% I don't know. 12% never.

The survey by IRI: https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/291901/

search operations / 1000plus paycheck payments will reduce

Armenian and Azeri crews continue operations to find missing soldiers and bodies in former battlefields. Seven bodies were found on the Armenian side, with another two transferred from the Azeri side.

Parliamentary Security Committee held a meeting about the 1000plus.am (Soldiers' Fund) aid for families of missing, disabled, or deceased soldiers. The discussion was over the amount that needs to be collected from paychecks in higher salary brackets.

Committee member: the alarming scenario that was being discussed during the war regarding the possible number of casualties can be confidently ruled out today. The number of deaths won't exceed 4,000. //

The proposed bill will reduce the fees collected from paychecks, which were significantly increased in December. It used to be ֏1K for everyone (hence the name 1000plus) but it was increased with progressive brackets.

self-employed

The self-employed pay ֏18-180K/month after the December amendment. The newest proposal will reduce the upper bracket to ֏120K. The number of self-employed who will pay the minimum ֏18K will increase.

paycheck workers

Ordinary workers earning under ֏150K/mo will pay ֏2K instead of ֏3K.

Under ֏300K earners will pay ֏3K instead of ֏5.5K.

A slight reduction for under ֏500K earners.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048489.html , https://youtu.be/_zH7ggVYFXk , https://factor.am/357372.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/210974

Economy Ministry about vacant job positions:

Examination of various databases and online platforms shows that there are 1,542 available job positions.

It's the largest number in two years. That testifies to the gradual recovery of economic activity and business optimism.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048573.html

businessman and benefactor Hirair Hovnanian passes away at the age of 91

He was one of the key figures and a member of the Board of Trustees of the All-Armenian Fund. He helped Armenia and Artsakh since the 90s. He also helped rebuild post-earthquake infrastructure and programs relating to the Lachin road.

Former Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan once said, "Hrair, you are more Armenian than us, what would we do without you?"

Political leaders from Armenia and Artsakh sent condolences.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048510.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048538.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048541.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048559.html

Justice Minister met US ambassador to discuss the ongoing judicial and police reforms

Badasyan thanked ambassador Tracey for the ongoing support with the creation of the anti-corruption institute. "Despite last year's challenges, tangible progress has been made in these areas," noted the US ambassador.

The USAID representative spoke about 5-year reform plans in the anti-corruption and judicial branches. The two also discussed the topic of POWs.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048534.html

Pashinyan spoke with the new EBRD bank leader

Pashinyan noted that the European bank's $160M portfolio in 2020 was the largest in the history of AM-EBRD relations. They spoke about humanitarian programs.

The EBRD President said the bank values the reliable partnership with Armenia and is interested in helping to increase women's economic activity, deepening cooperation in the development of infrastructure, energy, the private sector, and financial institutions.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048536.html

Parliamentary Security Committee discussed the proposed law to allow hemp production in Armenia

Members discussed the risks associated with allowing industrial hemp and the possibility that some farmers could grow marijuana instead. "We must discuss the positive and negative aspects of this bill. The risks are manageable because the law enforcement can be retrained. The positive outweighs the negative. Today, CBD oil is prescribed for some health issues but their import is problematic so people move abroad to obtain it," said QP MP Khachatryan.

The government representative (author) said the bill provides tools for complete oversight on how the hemp will be grown.

https://factor.am/357409.html , https://youtu.be/wQgbyDSXuZA

Parliamentary security committee discussed a bill to relax weapon ownership laws

A bill was proposed earlier to allow residents near the borders to own more powerful rifles.

Today the Committee deliberated whether they should allow every qualified individual across Armenia, not just border residents, to own weapons. "If you want peace, prepare for war," said a committee member.

https://factor.am/357387.html

IRS busts a large online gambling operation

IRS said: two unlicensed companies held online broadcasts of internet gambling organized in Armenia. Participants would obtain cards containing passcode to log in and gamble online. The companies also falsified the salary records to evade taxes.

A total of ֏624M in damages. A felony case is launched. Equipment was confiscated.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048553.html

anti-corruption: a mayor is charged over land embezzlement

Prosecutors said: the mayor of Little Sariar is charged with a felony. In 2002-2006, he organized an illegal land auction and leased it to his mother for pennies, who then sub-leased it to someone else for 425x the price. He returned the stolen funds.

There are 13 similar felony cases in settlements of Shirak province. 6 mayors are charged.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048565.html

music video: Iveta Mukuchyan - Big Armenian Wedding

https://youtu.be/Kge0CRWLfLM?t=10

music video: Sirusho - First Time

https://youtu.be/N9Xs9bl90mw

COVID stats

4589 tested. 1029 infected. 1117 healed. 22 deaths. 16357 (slightly down)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048507.html

bill drafted: postpone army conscription for some students

A Parliamentary Security committee gave preliminary approval to a LHK bill that would postpone conscription for students studying in the last year of their secondary vocational education program before they turn 20.

The bill is likely to pass because it received support from the ruling QP MPs, who made amendments to the proposal.

LHK author: former Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan did us a major disservice by repealing the draft postponement system. Our army needs educated soldiers (students graduate before joining the army). We must bring back the institute of draft postponement.

QP chairman: Vigen Sargsyan has been on the other side of the ocean for a while now. It is up to us now. I share your views that the army's intellectual capacity was reduced by repealing the draft postponement system. Either one of us could draft a more comprehensive bill to restore it if our security system can handle it.

LHK author: I'm trying but they [presumably army leadership] are against it.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048513.html , https://factor.am/357420.html , https://youtu.be/WawfDdvqNls

bill drafted: LHK and government debate over raising the age limit for army contractors

LHK drafted a bill to raise the army contractor age limit from 40 to 63.

The government wants to set the upper limit at 45 for the inexperienced, and to progressively increase it to 58 for experienced higher-ranking officers: the higher the rank the higher the age limit.

LHK agreed to the government's suggestion because "the idea of raising the limit is preserved."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048517.html , https://youtu.be/3Wch5fj16P0

first batch of Sevan trout (ishkhan) is dumped in Artsakh's Sarsang reservoir

Nature Minister Romanos recently met Artsakh president Arayik to discuss nature protection and forest management. One of the main topics was the release of Sevan "rainbow" Trout in the Sarsang reservoir.

Experts believe that currently, the reservoir has the right temperature and microplankton population for the dump. They expect the population to significantly increase within 2 years.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048491.html

rent control? Artsakh govt could rein in on landlords

The govt isn't happy that some landlords are "taking advantage" of the presence of many IDPs by raising the rent three-fold, which resulted in some tenants losing homes.

A database is created with the list of these landlords. They could lose access to government subsidies for utility bills, etc.

2,000 IDPs have registered to receive rent subsidies from the govt. Meanwhile, the process of building new housing units continues. It could take 3 years for everyone to receive a free house.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048511.html

solar panels installed on Gyumri State Academy of Fine Arts

The religious charity the "Catholic Near East Welfare Association" helped with the installation of solar panels on the roof of Fine Arts Academy. It's already being used.

The Academy hopes to save much-needed cash on heating and electricity bills because at the moment most of their budget is spent on salaries and building upkeep.

They plan to use the saved $1,600/year resources on repairing the lab, purchasing new equipment, and reducing tuition fees.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048494.html

about those rescued bears...

Nature protection groups have been fighting for years to release bears caged in restaurants and oligarchs' mansions. They released a video:

https://youtu.be/W7FH6zMbifE

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/211012

the return of Thomas the train

Hambardzum Danielyan is the name of a train. It's named after a prominent late railway official who died 28 years ago.

After 28 years, legendary Hambardzum Danielyan has returned to service [in the shape of a train], said the South Caucasus Railways in the most cringiest way possible. Veteran officials went to cut the red tape to welcome Thomas.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/211002

(spoiler) weightlifter Liana Gyurjyan wins bronze medal in the European championship

Izabella Yalyan finished 4th. The male athletes won gold and bronze yesterday.

Update: Hakob Mkrtchyan wins bronze in the European championship.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048569.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048587.html

(spoiler) Armenian boxer defeats Turkish opponent

Hovhannes Bachkov played his second fight in the professional ring. He defeated Binali Shakhmandarov with a KO in the first round. Hovik wore a shirt in support of Armenian soldiers.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048570.html

journalists held a soccer competition in Egypt

Armenia 1:3 Moldova

Armenia 5:4 Kazakhstan

Armenia 4:2 Belarus

Armenia 2:1 Ukraine

Armenia 6:1 Egypt

The team finished second.

https://factor.am/357532.html

US embassy held a reading marathon

Ambassador Tracey, municipality officials from Yerevan, and other diplomats participated in a game in which they took turns to read paragraphs from American writer R. J. Palacio's "Wonder". The novel teaches the reader to respect and value others. (did you hear that?)

https://factor.am/357499.html

top-5 bestseller Armenian literature in March

5) Ստախոսը, by Leon Ness (about a "masked liar" traveling through the world with an attempt to escape reality in search of happiness)

4) Ռոդենի ձմեռը, by David Samvelyan (collection of essays on human characters and temperaments)

3) Կասկադ. 6.15, by Marianna Hakobyan (about love, happiness, sadness, spirituality)

2) Ինձ բացակա չդնեք, by Hamo Sahyan (about life and politics in the late 80s)

1) Balzak: a dog's tale, by Leon Ness (about analyzing human beings)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1048369.html

don't miss important news from Thursday

https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/mn00v9/apr82021_1_amnesty_for_army_dodgers_2_pow/?

end of report

The accused are innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "appear" guilty.

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

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Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/mnps2i/apr92021_1_bakuyerevan_plane_arrives_without_the/

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