2021 August 24

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Daily news wrap-up

News - Aug/24/2021: Pashinyan speech in Parliament: reforms in army/education/intel; reservists; Karabakh conflict; labor productivity index; infrastructure; and more ___ Armenia will purchase fewer but modern weapons: MOD in Moscow ___ Another mass amnesty is coming ___ Radical opposition __ ...
by ar_david_hh

Your 15-minute Tuesday recap in 3875 words.

Today's main topic is Parliament discussing the government plan. Pashinyan was summoned for Q&A. Here is the full speech and the text in Armenian. Some parts are presented below...

Pashinyan about creating a professional army:

Armenia will gradually transition to a professional army. The structure of conscription and military service will change significantly.

Because of some nuances of the socio-economic life of Armenia, today we hire army contractors who spend part of their time working elsewhere. They spend half of the month in army, and the other half doing other work.

In the new professional army, the soldier spends the entire time in the army. Their main job will no longer be guarding the borders. The borders must be protected by Border Guards, while soldiers [professional army] must be stationed in their permanent bases and work towards improving their combat readiness.

This replacement process will be gradual. The deployment of Border Guards is a sign of peace. The soldiers will be used only if there is an attack against Armenia.

We decided to pay more attention to and increase the combat readiness of the reserve forces. You are aware that the 3-month reservist retraining launches tomorrow. It marks the beginning of having an active reserve.

The quality of military education must continue to improve and the army must undergo technological development to withstand 21st-century challenges.

Soldiers will be encouraged with higher salaries and perks to make military service more attractive.

We are open to suggestions from the opposition, even if it's communicated with a "bad attitude". The reform plan has not been finalized yet. We could implement new ideas. The army is not our private property.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061502.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061534.html

Pashinyan about women in the military:

Women are a majority in Armenia. Their potential should be used in the defense. That doesn't mean they should have the same duties as men. It's about making the most of the potential.


Pashinyan about the agreements with Russia to modernize the army:

We already have military arrangements with Russia. Our efforts to modernize the army are being incorrectly interpreted as an attempt to prepare and start a war. We have no intentions to invade territories.


meanwhile, MOD Karapetyan visited weapons expo in Moscow and spoke about armament reforms

Defense Minister: 1) We need new and quality weapons. 2) We need to have our own production of weapons. 3) No more "middle man" intermediaries between MOD and weapons manufacturers. [cough Patron Davo cough]

Russia is helping us with all three. I have not heard the word "no". We will take practical steps to develop our cooperation. We plan to have quality weapons. We will not purchase the old stuff. This will be our policy.

It's better to have few but in higher quality, so we will know it will function when needed. [does this indirectly confirm Gen. Samvel Babayan's claim that some of the old Russian weapons did not function during the war?]

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061540.html https://youtu.be/XpRd6c7R_VU

Russian "Almaz-Amtey" weapons manufacturer about Turkish Bayraktar drones:

Bayraktars are an easy target for anti-aircraft missile systems. It's large and weighs 650kg. It's vulnerable. It has a slow speed.

The drones must be fought with means that exceed the drone's range. You must detect and destroy it in time before it's able to use its missiles.


Pashinyan about humanitarian aid for Artsakh:

No effort is being spared to create dignified and prosperous living conditions in Artsakh. We will deepen the cooperation with Artsakh authorities and set new standards.

We have implemented 20 aid programs worth ֏83 billion ($168M) in Artsakh since the ceasefire.


Pashinyan about 2020 war death toll:

3,773 dead, 243 missing. [combined 4,016, doesn't include known POWs].


Pashinyan about forming a commission to investigate the 2020 war:

Parliament will soon form a bipartisan commission. It is important to also involve representatives of non-Parliamentary parties and families of war victims.

Clarifying the circumstances of the war is an unequivocal public demand. The commission should investigate political, military, and social-psychological events relating to the conflict.

I consider my administration responsible for the results of the war. It was a mistake not to publish the full details of the Karabakh negotiations legacy I inherited in 2018. As Serj Sargsyan said on April 17, 2018, the negotiations were in a deadlock. In the 2020 war, we put up a fight until the last second.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061497.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061524.html

would Pashinyan repeat the 2018 revolution?

ARF MP Vardanyan: if you knew that your 2018 takeover of power would lead to the 2020 disaster, would you come to power again?

Pashinyan: and you are confident that you know what would be the outcome had there not been a peaceful revolution in 2018? Tells us, then. Because we know what would happen.

I've spoken about the negotiation deadlock multiple times. I've spoken about the state of the Armenian military. Your colleague [Serj] spoke about the state of negotiations in 2018.


Pashinyan about the recent snap elections:

The government did not use force or mediators, choosing to ask the people instead. The institute of elections has transformed in 2021.

In the past, elections would be followed by solid facts about falsifications by the government, accompanied by public disturbances, which would deepen the crisis and unrest. The 2021 elections had the opposite effect.

Our history would perhaps take a different turn if there was a chance to hold similar snap elections in 1998. [when President Levon was forced by opposition to resign for agreeing to adjacent land concessions.]

The problem is the process happened without the public's participation, without public discussions. The topic of conflict resolution was removed from public discourse. This lead to problems, which we still face today.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061481.html https://www.civilnet.am/news/630381/երկու-շատ-լուրջ-պարտություն-լեռնային-ղարաբաղի-հարցում․-փաշինյան/

Pashinyan about the history of Karabakh negotiation process:

Since the start of the Karabakh negotiations, Azerbaijan clearly formulated what it needs to do. According to them, Karabakh is Azerbaijan, there is no "autonomous" region nor a republic. They said that if negotiations do not work out, they would invade it through the use of force, while they spent billions of dollars on armament. The Azeri public knew clearly what the agenda was.

There was no such clarity in Armenia. Many "treason" accusations were made. What were some of the options? A decision was made in 1989 by the Armenian SSR and Artsakh Council which served basis for the declaration that Artsakh should be declared as part of Armenia.

Another option was giving adjacent lands in exchange for legal status for Artsakh. There were those who called this treason.

Another option was exchanging territories. Armenia would give lands to Azerbaijan in exchange for merging Artsakh with Armenia. This was also deemed treason by many.

While Azerbaijan was speaking the same thing privately and publicly, and there was consensus in the Azeri public, the same cannot be said about Armenia. Our position differed depending on whether the dialogue was with the international community, negotiators, or the Armenian public.

Most importantly, we did not address the question of what would we do if negotiations failed. This is a systemic issue and I'm not saying this to target specific things the old/new governments did or did not do. This is a systemic issue that we've had since the beginning of the conflict.

It had a significant impact on post-independent Armenia and its relations. The society did not have a strategy to regulate the conflict. It was left out of public discourse.

https://youtu.be/vqywKjXWSVY https://factor.am/407951.html

another mass amensty on its way?

The authorities have introduced a bill to forgive those who committed small or medium severity felonies if the person fought in the 2020 war, and those who avoided military service between November 9 (ceasefire) to March 24 (end of martial law).

If you are part of this group, you can turn yourself in by February 2022 to have the charges dropped, before the aforementioned law goes into effect.

More details will be available later once the Parliament begins discussions.


Pashinyan about relations with Russia, and Russian military base in Armenia:

We will continue to strengthen the allied relations and strategic partnerships with Russia. New Russian positions were installed on the borders in Syunik's Goris and Sisian regions.

We are in talks with Russia to unblock the regional trade routes. Russia is a member of the OSCE Minsk Group and has peacekeepers in Artsakh. The strong anti-Russian peacekeeping propaganda in Azerbaijan concerns me. I believe the lengthy prison sentences by Azeri courts for some of our POWs are meant to discredit the Russian peacekeeping mission.


Pashinyan about relations with the United States:

The Armenian-US relations have risen to the level of strategic dialogue. Our government will continue to work diligently to develop and deepen friendly partnership with the U.S., while expanding cooperation on democratic reforms, rule of law, anti-corruption fight, and economic projects.

I must emphasize the involvement of the U.S. and EU in the recent Police Patrol reforms in Armenia.


anti-corruption: authorities bust a cop who took bribes from 40 prospective drivers

NSS report says: a cop took ֏1M in bribes from 40 residents to help them pass the driving test. The cop and 3 bribe-givers have been arrested. Another 10 are facing charges. //


pressure grows on the U.S. to suspend military component exports for Turkish Bayraktar drones

28 Congress members, joined by ethnic Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Israeli, and Indian groups, demand the White House to stop exporting American tech used in the production of Turkish UAVs, and to investigate Turkey's destabilizing role in the region.

Dashnaks in U.S. announced that Sen. Menendez raised the topic during a recent session but has not received a response yet.

The Greek group condemned Turkey's involvement of Syrian mercenaries and drones in the fight against Karabakh. "The US administration has often prioritized political interests over values, but Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system shows that Turkey no longer serves those interests. Now not only do we not share fundamental values with Turkey, but we are in a conflict in the sphere of fundamental interests."


Pashinyan about Emmanuel Macron:

The President of France has played an important role in developing AM-FR relations. We are now working to strengthen economic ties. As the leader of an OSCE member state, Macron plays an important role in stabilizing the region.


Pashinyan about Georgia:

I'll visit Georgia on September 8. Premier Gharibashvili has contributed to activating ARM-GEO economic cooperation. I'd also like to remind you about his personal contribution to organizing the return of our POWs on June 12.


Pashinyan about reforms in the security/intel apparatus:

The National Security Service (NSS) must become a counterintelligence body. Its Border Guards will continue to be part of it.

Part of NSS's duty will be to fight against terrorism and extremism, and the protection of constitutional order.

Over time, a number of other areas that are currently reserved for the NSS will change. This will lead to NSS becoming significantly stronger.

We will have a separate foreign intel agency. The State Protection Service [aka Secret Service] will split from NSS and report directly to Premier.


Pashinyan about Parliamentary vs Presidential governing system:

Just because I mentioned the need to discuss switching to a semi-presidential system, doesn't mean I believe the Parliamentary system is incapable of functioning under Armenian conditions.

We must measure seven times and cut once. Perhaps it was the semi-presidential system that led to deadlock. We need to think about this.

However, the efficiency of some mechanisms defined by the current Constitution has raised some questions. For example, when there was a threat of the army's involvement in politics in February [ex-CoGS Onik Gasparyan's letter], it took over a month to resolve the situation. That's too long, especially considering Armenia's situation. [He believes army's involvement in politics contributed to weakening the internal stability and Azerbaijan's decision to encroach in Syunik/Gegharkunik].


Pashinyan about the ethical conduct of journalists in Parliament building and elsewhere:

Journalists themselves need to develop and follow certain rules of ethics. We have received a specific proposal related to the regulation of journalistic ethics.

We should propose legislative changes, which will establish an institution, which will help journalists develop certain rules of ethics for their activities. Citizens deserve to know the real owners of media outlets in order to have clear dividing lines that will indicate whether a journalist is engaged in journalism or they are activists representing a certain circle.


Pashinyan about COVID:

We were criticized last year for the pandemic handling. History shows that our calculations were right. Every country eventually reaches the same point despite stricter lockdowns. We decided in May 2020 that we would no longer impose lockdowns if there was even the tiniest chance to avoid it.

We need opposition parties' help to boost vaccinations.

https://youtu.be/BVy2ab5_72Y https://factor.am/408108.html

Pashinyan about agriculture and insurance system:

The future of the agricultural sector in Armenia is "intensive agriculture", where everything (quality, quantity) is planned. Our goal is to help expand such lands by 1,000 hectares annually.

In 2019 we implemented 11 agricultural development programs to increase productivity: intense gardens, subsidized leasing of agricultural tech to farmers to boost productivity, free water for those who use efficient irrigation systems, etc.

We will have a complete agricultural insurance system within the next 5 years.

More: https://youtu.be/vcPYer62RoY https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061505.html

Pashinyan about increasing labor productivity in Armenia:

Armenia's productivity is only $6.8/hour (GDP divided by the work). That's very low. In comparison, Russia has $11.7, EU $42.7, and some EU countries over $100.

Agriculture has a large share in our economy. Its productivity is only $3/hour. We have many farmers who complain about no results despite working day and night. That's explained by the $3/hour.

This indicator shows one of the most important basic problems we have in our economy. It is our government's strategic goal to increase it.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061504.html https://youtu.be/lfrJIMAj_SU?t=101

Pashinyan about Economic Complexity Index and making education accessible to poor:

Labor efficiency has another important indicator called the economic complexity index. Growing a tomato is a minimal point; producing bottled ketchup from that tomato would be a higher point. But if we produce equipment to produce ketchup for export, that's even more complex.

The higher the index, the better the residents' living conditions. In the mid-term, we want to improve the index from 0.39 to 0.1 [Note: I might have botched the numbers while translating this], and become a high index state within a decade.

Education is necessary here. There is no issue you can resolve with education alone, but there is no issue that can be resolved without education. I spoke about the military education of our soldiers earlier. This is true for the economy, too.

One of the biggest problems in post-independence Armenia is education becoming a tool for the "elites". If you look at vacant jobs and who gets hired, it's directly associated with a specific circle. Education must become accessible to remote residents.

By 2026, we must build/rebuild 300 schools with exclusively brand new equipment. This is an order to public officials. We have other plans for the existing 1,400 schools. They all must have natural sciences and engineering labs by 2026. We hope to use some of the EU's €2.6B aid to accomplish this.

I am proud that my administration was able to work in the past three years towards education reforms so schools can begin with new standards this year, beginning in Tavush.

None of this will make difference if we don't have quality teachers. Therefore, our strategic goal is retraining teachers and having special policies for qualified teachers. We began the voluntary teacher attestation process. Those who prove they are skilled will earn 30-50% higher wages. We should not have bad teachers. Teaching should not be a job for someone who couldn't find work elsewhere.

Education begins in kindergartens. We will build/rebuild 500 kindergartens by 2026. Over 85% of 3-5y/o childen must be in kindergartens.

Many donors have come and built kindergartens in Armenia but today their doors are shut. To prevent this from happening, we decided that the federal government will build new kindergartens under the condition that the local municipalities will handle the operational expenses. We have a clear mechanism today.

This is aided by the enlargement of settlements when multiple villages join into bigger municipalities with bigger budgets. The second tool is the new property tax reform that will fill the coffers of local municipalities so they can spend it on education.

Many students show interest in high-tech, choose relevant majors, but graduate without enough skills and have to start from zero after finding high-tech work. University diplomas are often "formalities".

Depoliticizing schools will play an important role. Depoliticizing doesn't mean not having connections with Education Ministry, it means not being engaged in politics.

Our universities do not meet international standards. They would fail certification. Even the physical conditions in facilities don't meet the standards. I was earlier criticized for saying we need to build a new 'Academic City'. New physical infrastructure is part of the solution. We are still in the early stages of Academic City discussions.

Full: https://youtu.be/sI87HQpT4mQ


there was a conflict between the "radical opposition" and security personnel in Parliament again

Pashinyan was speaking when PU MP Anna Mkrtchyan interrupted again. The Parliament president instructed her to leave the assembly room for the remainder of the day. The MP refused to comply, so the security was called to remove her.

When the security approached her, fellow HD and MP MPs approached the security and tried to prevent the MP's removal. It turned into a kerfuffle with people pushing each other. The president took a 20-minute break.

HD MP Artsvik Minasyan (ARF) later complained that his shirt was ripped and he was struck during the scuffle with security personnel.

Human Rights Ombudsman urged Parliament to be more civil, and for security personnel to wear civilian clothes and to act less brutal.

https://youtu.be/i8wVXISZdwU?t=300 https://youtu.be/8o2vBLB6CsQ https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061508.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061515.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061521.html https://factor.am/408455.html

Pashinyan about the increased security measures in Parliament building:

[ARF MP complained about "too many" security staff in and around the parliament building nowadays.]

Pashinyan: some of the Prime Minister candidates, appointed by opposition circles earlier, were playing monkey games by describing October 27, 1999, terrorists as "romantics". These "romantics" had associations with specific political parties [likely referring to the terrorist's former ARF membership]. That political force often claims that their members are never "former members". [ARF MP interrupts saying they do have "former member".]

Some people are perhaps inconvenienced by the fact that they no longer have the chance to display "romanticism"... this is the same group that claims that The People cannot make decisions, yet they urge opponents to be assassinated and hanged.

The institutes will be protected.

Some people are complaining about their shirts being ripped and not being taken away to the toilet to be pushed around carelessly [referring to Kocharyan's bodyguards murdering a man in Paplavok toilet]. They joined that regime and stayed silent for decades. It's their problem. The institutes must be protected, whether they like it or not.

And again, colleagues, let's stay on topic and discuss policies. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have sharp speeches but let's stay on topic. //

https://youtu.be/PNQGdhdld9M https://factor.am/408334.html

HD MP Ohanyan complained about prosecutors' renewed efforts to jail pro-Kocharyan MP Armen Charchyan,

... the ex-director of a hospital who was allegedly caught on audiotape threatening subordinates not to vote for Pashinyan in June 20. Yesterday the Appeals Court ruled that MP Charchyan must spend 2 months in jail before his trial.

The opposition called the move unconstitutional and politically motivated.


Kocharyan & aide's ~$5M bribery trial resumes

Kocharyan's aide Armen Gevorgyan will ask the Constitutional Court whether the felony trial can continue since he is now an HD MP. He believes that MP's immunity has a retroactive effect on felony trials that were launched even before the person became an MP. [Parliament would likely need to strip immunity to proceed with the trial if the top court sides with the defendant.]

Prosecutors argued against dropping the entire case, even if the defendant turns out to have immunity.

The trial will continue later.

https://factor.am/408128.html https://factor.am/408138.html

fertility programs to boost demographics in Artsakh

Healthcare Ministry: we are improving the conditions to research and treat infertility, and the use of assisted reproductive technologies. New standards and requirements to receive free care were introduced.

Couples that have been struggling for >2 years will qualify if the woman is between the ages of 20-42.

35 couples have already applied this year, 22 underwent treatment, 10 became pregnant.


National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will help build new labs in Artsakh

Earlier, Biotech Research Institute and others cooperated to open a new lab in Artsakh. Armenia's NAS admins visited Artsakh today to discuss that, and other science cooperation.

One of the research projects has turned into a commercial product. They will produce a lactic acid product. NAS will provide the equipment to launch a small-scale production to produce enough for Artsakh consumption.

They will open other labs in the fields of geology, radiophysics, and astronomy.


VIDEO: road and housing construction boom continues in Artsakh


COVID stats

6559 tested. 537 infected. 226 healed. 6 deaths. 7787 active.

Healthcare Ministry: we are adding more beds to address the rising numbers. Delta causes more young patients to get severely sick, while the average length of hospitalization is significantly longer.

Delta doesn't necessarily result in loss of taste. It could be disguised as common flu. 50 out of 60 tested samples were Delta. //

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061486.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1061531.html

Yerevan municipality does not have the legal right to stop the construction of the controversial 12-story building in FizGorodok

... announced the mayor's spokesman today. Context in August 23 new post.

Municipality spokesman: the land was privatized in 2004. We don't have the right to reverse it. Construction of a 12-story building in this area was already given in 2007 and 2012.

In 2019 we rejected the application to extend the construction permit, forcing the builder to undergo a new examination. We organized public hearings. The Քաղշինխորհուրդ hearing gave almost unanimous approval for the project to proceed.

Earlier this year, the Education Ministry declared that FizGorodok was a "newly discovered monument" but that area was excluded.

The municipality has no choice but to give a construction permit if it meets all legal requirements. The residents took the case to court but lost. Only the court can stop the construction. //


the "peace dancework" will be held on Yerevan streets for the first time

It'll be organized by Swiss choreographer Foofwa d'Imobilité on August 25. The dancing will begin at 5:30 pm in Misak Manushyan Garden and end in Taterakan square. Armenia is the 12th country to host the festival.


VIDEO: rescuers save a baby brown bear tangled in a net in Vayots Dzor province


The bear was tranquilized to get a vaccine https://youtu.be/HOycBNYGz80?t=17

Corsica closes public beaches after aggressive cows take over and menace the tourists


end of report

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

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Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/pawebo/news_aug242021_pashinyan_speech_in_parliament/

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