2021 January 15

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Daily news wrap-up

Jan/15/2021 news: _ Army dodgers could have multiple options to avoid punishment __ Electoral reform: oligarchs can't buy elections, entry barrier lowered, the dead cannot vote __ los hobos __ Vermishyan's case __ Military theft busted __ Seyran Ohanyan __ Which TV outlets can broadcast? __ more
by ar_david_hh

Your 15-minute Friday report in 3653 words.

election law reform: longer campaigns, oligarch-money prohibited, no "rating" system

The government, the opposition parties, and civil society representatives have been working together to reform the electoral code. It will be finalized in January. Here are some of the proposed changes:

Political parties can only use special pre-election foundations to cover campaign expenses. These foundations can only use donations from ordinary citizens.

There will be a limit on how much citizens can donate to parties. "The road for oligarch is closed."

Parties can also spend the money that they are entitled to by the law that regulates how much each party can receive. from the state coffers.

The government won't be allowed to use public resources for election campaigning. "In 2017 we saw how PM Karen Karapetyan used state resources to travel to provinces, and under the name of political meetings, he held an election campaign." (this reform is still being finalized)

The campaign will last 45 days, longer than before.

Dead people won't be able to vote anymore (big if true). The names of citizens with expired IDs will be removed.

Opposition parties will have an easier time to enter Parliament because the entry barrier lowers by 1%. Only 4% will be needed.

If parties combine to form an alliance, they will have a higher entry barrier than if they were to run independently. The more parties join the alliance, the higher the entry % barrier.

The rating system is gone. There will only be a "hamamasnakan" ballot. All political parties supported this change.

https://factor.am/328550.html , https://youtu.be/QQbGVvNLBvg

opposition leader Manukyan visits Gyumri / calls for Pashinyan's arrest / confrontation

Opposition PM candidate Vazgen Manukyan (nominated by the former regime) visited Gyumri to meet the locals and talk about the need to create a new government. The car transporting Manukyan, ARF Ishkhan, and others was blocked

by protesters who didn't want to allow them to enter the city. A scuffle took place between protesters and the opposition figures. The police broke up the fight.

Vazgen Manukyan later referred to protesters as "hobos paid by Pashinyan". A local Gyumri QP MP criticized Manukyan for insulting the protesters. Manukyan's "hobo" slipup was also criticized by Human Rights Ombudsman Tatoyan.

While in Gyumri, Manukyan spoke about the need to "get the country back on its feet, stabilize it, ensure fair elections", and only then hold new elections. "The solution is to have a nationwide outburst. If prosecutors won't arrest Pashinyan, if he isn't resigning, then it's necessary to enter and arrest him. We cannot allow the country to remain in this state."

"People should take to the streets and remove this government. There is no other alternative. It's a matter of time until Nikol leaves," said ARF Ishkhan Saghatelyan. The visit is part of their countrywide tour that they planned earlier.

LHK MP believes that Vazgen Manukyan, due to his divisive stance, does not stand a chance to be elected as PM by the current Parliament. LHK offers its leader Edmon Marukyan as the next PM. (LHK is the type of guy who slides into your DMs)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1040350.html , https://factor.am/328539.html , https://factor.am/328578.html , https://youtu.be/vjlRqtphzh4 , https://factor.am/328629.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/204426 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/204450

Vermishyan felony case: former chief of Urban Development Committee / Construction bribery

Yerevan's former chief urban developer Vahagn Vermishyan was arrested in early 2020 and charged with multiple counts of corruption. The prosecutors believe they have enough evidence and sent the case to court.

Prosecutors said: Vermishyan created an architecture firm with the help of his Friend, participated in its management, and being a public official in power, he granted the firm privileges.

Vermishyan abused his powers and ordered his Friend to be hired in the Urban Development Committee lead by him. The Friend did not attend work but got paid ֏1.5 million salaries.

Vermishyan then pressured several construction companies to sign ֏27 million-worth contracts with his architecture firm and used state resources to make sure the contracts are carried out.

Then, in Oct-Nov-2019, Vermishyan took ֏3.6 million in bribes from two construction company directors to issue them Honorary Titles. (Note: this is the investigation that lead to BHK chief Gagik Tsarukyan being charged with 2017 voter buying. When NSS raided the offices/houses of the aforementioned construction firm directors who paid the alleged bribes, they discovered documents showing payments made by BHK to these firms, in exchange for "voter buying". Gagik Tsarukyan would later cry political persecution and that the case against him began in early-2020 after he began criticizing Pashinyan, but the timeframe shows the lead against Tsarukyan started in late 2019, well before he became critical of Pashinyan.)

Vermishyan also colluded with another friend to expedite and give favorable treatment to the construction of an apartment building managed by this friend. Vermishyan received ֏952K in bribes.

Vermishyan also defrauded another apartment complex construction company of ֏1.2 million.

Vermishyan also agreed to take bribes from another company to legalize their illegal building and to falsify documents to change the legal classification of nearby lands.

Vermishyan is facing 7 felony counts of abuse of power, illegal construction activities, large-scale bribery, and fraud. 7 other co-conspirators are also charged.


re: justice reforms announced yesterday

Justice Minister Badasyan: The process of judicial reform in Armenia is inviolable. The draft bill will create specialized courts that handle the suspect's arrest and property searches during the preliminary investigation, before his trial. This is one area that the public has been complaining about. We will have more judges who underwent ethics vetting. I am confident that the trust in the judicial system will increase after the reforms. //

Some civil groups are skeptical that the judicial system, "which has been mired in corruption for years," will be reformed overnight. "There could be temporary improvements after this, but the sabotage in the judicial system will continue. The government began talking about this only after the judicial system began releasing [former regime officials] despite them making calls for assassinations. What we need is the comprehensive vetting of judges and prosecutors." (critics argue that the vettings proposed by the government aren't deep enough)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1040295.html , https://factor.am/328557.html

NSS arrests a group accused of stealing weapons during the war

NSS says: Yerevan resident volunteered to join the army on September 27th, when the war began. He conspired with several others to steal and smuggle several rifles, each worth $600, to his apartment.

During the search of his apartment, we found the Kalashnikov rifles, ammo, and other military items.

The suspect then revealed that the main storage is located in [Syunik bordering village] Tegh. We found 43 Kalashnikov rifles, thousands of bullets, knives, military bags, optics for rifles, hunting rifles, a grenade, etc.


why is there no investigative group to examine the 44-day war?

"Because doing so today would politicize it, it's too early," said ruling party QP MP Andranik. "We need a calm situation."


rumors & rebuttals: opposition General Seyran Ohanyan vs Prosecutors

Prosecutors: former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan wrote an emotional post not typical of a military-political figure. He distorted facts. Ohanyan wrote that General Prosecutor Davtyan and his Azeri colleague signed "certain documents" during the recent trip to Moscow. This is a fabricated lie, and that's the reason why Ohanyan didn't bother to clarify what the "document" is about. As we reported earlier, the prosecutors of Armenia and Russia (not Azerbaijan) signed a document about mutual cooperation.

Ohanyan also lied about prosecutors of Armenia and Azerbaijan discussing Azerbaijan's recent illegal attempts to launch an international manhunt against certain Armenian military officials (including Ohanyan). In reality, as we've stated before, that topic was discussed between Armenia and Russia.

Ohanyan is wrong about us (prosecutors) being silent about Azerbaijan's manhunt attempts against him. He should have checked our statements during and after the war. We've been working with international colleagues on this topic.

The most baffling statement by Ohanyan, however, is his opposition to any kind of discussions with Azerbaijan. Being a former Defense Minister and a military official who has participated in POW swap operations in the past, Ohanyan should have known how this process works and how important this sensitive topic is. What alternatives does Ohanyan offer?

(Note: Seyran Ohanyan, along with Robert Kocharyan and others, is a co-defendant in the "March 1st, 2008" case.)


Ohanyan's full letter with accusations against Prosecutor Davtyan is here: https://factor.am/328485.html

re: ex-NSS chief's accounts about Arthur Vanetsyan's army unit

ex-NSS chief Qyaramyan recently gave an interview and recalled an event from the war. Details here. General Seyran Ohanyan confirmed that the two were together during Shushi battles and in Stepanakert, and that the two left Shushi together with another soldier's vehicle, and not with "trucks loaded with gold" as some people had claimed.

(Seyran Ohanyan lead one of the battles to defend Shushi. He was praised by Artsakh president Arayik for skillful use of artillery tactics. CORRECTION BY REDDITOR: the general who was credited for artillery tactics was Levon Mnatsakanyan. Seyran Ohanyan was praised for another unspecified incident.)


students will continue to receive free tickets

In 2019 the Education Ministry implemented a new program aimed towards increasing students' interest in Armenian and international arts and culture. Every student began entitled to 3 free tickets to museums and theaters annually. Today the Ministry decided to extend this program for another year.


Public TV auction: which outlets will be allowed to broadcast in public multplex?

The public TV regulator Radio and Television Commission continues the process of issuing licenses for broadcast. Today's auction was for broadcasting in Yerevan (7 slots, with another 1 reserved for Russian outlet) and countrywide (5 slots, another 2 reserved for Russians).

Each TV outlet was granted points and ranked from top to bottom, to determine whether they win any slots, and whether it's countrywide or only in Yerevan. Here are the TV outlets, their political alliance, and their ranking points. The license is for 7 years:

countrywide broadcast

1) Armenia TV 713 points (linked to former regime)

2) Yerkir Media 688 (former regime)

3) Shant 680

4) ATV 670

5) Multimedia Center 663

6) 5th Channel aka 5TV 657 (former regime)

7) H2 626 (former regime)

8) ArmNews 613 (former regime)

9) A1+ 545 (anti-former regime)

10) Freenews 531 (owner unclear, there are rumors it's pro-Pashinyan)

broadcasting specifically in Yerevan

1) Arpi TV 542

2) Dar21 492

3) Mo TV 463

4) Shant Sport 216

who are the winners and losers?

These media outlets will broadcast countrywide: Yerkier Media (former regime, ARF), Armenia TV (linked to former regime), Kentron TV (former regime, BHK), Shant, ATV.

These media outlets will broadcast in Yerevan: 5TV (former regime, Kocharyan), ArmNews (former regime), Arpi Media, Feenews, Dar21, New Armenia.

These outlets chose not to compete in Yerevan: H2 (former regime), 1in.am (pro-western, Ind. MP Babajanyan).

These outlets failed to win slots because they only applied to broadcast countrywide but didn't get enough points: H2 (former regime) and A1+ (anti-former regime).

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1040288.html , https://youtu.be/0kTGhus1pW0 , https://factor.am/328430.html , https://factor.am/328430.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/204402

stats: consumer product price increase

Overall, prices went up +3.7% in the past 12 months.

Food and beverages +4.9%. Alcohol +10.4%. Clothing +0.3%. Utilities +0.5%. House applianced +3.6%. Healthcare industry +3.9%. Transport +4.7%. Telecom +0%. Leasure and culture -0.7%. Education +2%. Restaurants -1.8%. Misc +5.5%.


POWs and search operations

Military prosecutors met the families of missing and deceased soldiers to discuss the ongoing efforts.


The search crews in Artsakh did not operate today because president Aliyev and his family had to visit Shushi to raise the flag. They also visited the St. Ghazanchetsots church.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1040290.html , https://factor.am/328336.html , https://factor.am/328564.html

confirmed: joint Russian-Turkish observation group

... will be stationed in the Aghdam region that's under Azeri control, as reported earlier. 120 Russian and Turkish experts will monitor the ceasefire.


documenting Turkey's direct involvement in the 44-day war

Photos and research by:


Foreign Ministry criticizes Azerbaijan for "cultural robbery"

MFA said: Distortion of Armenian heritage identity by Azerbaijan is an attempt at "cultural robbery", which is also a gross violation of international norms. Armenian historical-cultural monuments were built long before the creation of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan also promoted the "Caucasian Albania" thesis while destroying Nakhijevan's Armenianian cross-stone cemeteries. Ilham Aliyev also attempted to portray this as a religious conflict during a meeting with the Islamic council. We condemn Azerbaijan's refusal to allow UNESCO experts to visit Armenian monuments.


army presents soldiers who committed acts of courage during the war

Majors Khachik Minasyan and Khachik Aghakebyan lead their units, neutralized 50 enemy troops, and destroyed large quantities of enemy vehicles with precision artillery strikes.

LtCol Masis Arthuri Avanesyan skillfully lead his battalion, shot a tank, and caused significant damage to enemy personnel.

Several officers courageously evacuated a large number of wounded soldiers.

Full: https://factor.am/328291.html

rumors & rebuttals: Iranian soldiers mistaken for Azeris in Yerevan

Social media and some websites circulated rumors that Armenian soldiers accompanied four Azeri soldiers to do shopping in Yerevan City supermarket. The Defense Ministry clarified that the visitors were Iranian soldiers who came to Armenia on a working trip. They were accompanied by Armenian military police.


Iran wants to create a border market with Armenia

Iranian state media reports that an official from northern Iran has invited his Armenian colleagues to create a market on the Armenia-Iran border "in the near future", to boost international trade.


Artsakh's agriculture and livestock after the war / Subsidized recovery

As reported earlier, most of Artsakh's arable lands and hydro plants went under Azeri control due to territorial loss. 75% of the 130,000 hectares of arable lands were lost. Artsakh also lost 20% of the orchards, irrigation water resources, and pastures. 50% of livestock were lost.

In the past, Artsakh was producing food enough to export to Armenia. Today it can only feed its population.

In response, the government plans to implement "intensive agriculture", expand greenhouse businesses, grow higher-priced items, and breed higher-quality cattle. Last month they purchased 1050 large cattle from Kazakhstan and distributed them to farmers for free, under the condition that 25% of the births given by these animals will be returned to the government.

If a farmer wants to have more cattle, the government will subsidize 50% of the cost.

The government will provide up to ֏2 million in subsidies to farmers to build intensive gardens, and ֏1 million for regular ones, per hectare.

Another 50-75% subsidy to purchase irrigation systems.

90% of the costs associated with running electrical and water networks in barns will be subsidized.

50% subsidy to build a barn or slaughterhouse.

More: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1040261.html

Artsakh's water infrastructure after war

President Arayik met a group of officials to create a 3-year plan to restore 24/7 water delivery to every part of Artsakh. It suffered losses due to some infrastructure going under Azeri control.


"2021 should be the year of recovery of our economic ambitions"

, said PM Pashinyan during a government session today. "2020 was a very problematic year for the economy due to coronavirus and war... We have many challenges but also many opportunities... The [removal of transport blockade] can create completely new economic opportunities for Armenia."


state budget tax revenues in 2020 vs 2019

Uncle Samvel's coffers collected ֏1385 billion in 2020, which is ֏60 billion more than in 2019. Uncle Samvel returned ֏139 billion back to businesses.

The year ended with net tax revenues being ֏1088 billion (-0.2%), with another ֏297 billion coming from customs revenues. The customs revenues were significantly lower compared to 2019 because 2019 was an "anomaly" year when many people rushed to import vehicles to resell before a relevant law's expiration.


top-10 largest taxpayers paid more in 2020

The difference was small, but notable considering the pandemic and war, said the IRS. Here are the largest taxpayers: Grand Tobacco, Gazprom-Armenia, Zangezur copper, GeoProMining, ... MTS Armenia (10th place).


IRS agents to carry weapons

The government believes the job of an IRS agent is risky enough to allow them to carry weapons. The draft bill received approval from a relevant Parliamentary committee and will be placed for a vote later. (IRS handles border customs and internal enforcement)


Armenian trucks are stuck in Lars

Armenian cargo trucks must pass through Georgia's mountainous Lars region to reach Russia. The problem is, Lars is often closed for trucks, which causes trade problems for Armenia. It's either covered by snow in the winter, or some landslides occur, or the road is damaged due to overuse.

Hundreds of trucks belonging to several states are currently stuck in Lars due to snow.


unblocking borders / alternative land and railway transport

One of the outcomes of the November trilateral statement is the possibility of AM-Z mutually lifting the transport blockade.

Economist Suren Parsyan believes that Azerbaijan could quickly build a road to connect to Nakhijevan, but building a railway in the southern Horadiz-Meghri-Nakhijevan region would cost $500 million and possibly decades of work because the old railroad network was deconstructed in the past.

Economist Hrant Mikaelyan believes many Armenian agriculture businesses could be negatively affected if the borders are opened.

Economist Norayr Gevorgyan believes that even with open borders with Azerbaijan, it would still be beneficial to use Georgia's Lars mountains to connect to Russia due to it being shorter. That is, of course, if Lars is open, says the economist. Lars is often closed due to bad weather. "Turkey could help Armenian businesses to connect to the west. In any case, Armenia could have diversified roads."

QP MP Gevorgyan believes that unblocking trade will boost Armenia's GDP by 1.5% but that "small number" shouldn't discourage us from opening the borders. "Closed borders did not prevent Turkish products from flooding the Armenian market. The Turkish economic expansion has been observed in many states."

"The Horadiz railway in the south doesn't have to be constructed from zero as it was done in the case with Georgian railway, because in Horadiz, there already is a base, you just have to install the rails. The only section that requires large-scale work is Khudaferi water reservoir area, which was built on top of the former railway area."

"The travel time between northern Armenia and Iran would reduce by 3.5 hours if we could use Nakhijevan. It would be beneficial for businesses."

"Copper miner currently has to use Syunik's mountainous roads to deliver slowly. With a new railway, the cost of transport would be slashed by multiple times, not by multiple percents."

https://factor.am/328566.html , https://factor.am/328426.html , https://factor.am/328571.html , https://factor.am/328583.html ,

smoking and driving could get you a ticket

The police say they have recorded numerous instances when smoking distracted the driver which lead to road incidents. A bill was drafted to ban smoking and driving. This law already exists for public transport drivers, but the new bill will also apply to personal cars.

Punishment would be $14 and a deduction of 1 point (all drivers start the year with 9 points).

In other news, drivers without a valid license will pay $400 instead of $60.

A Parliamentary committee approved the bill and sent it to Parliament for a discussion and vote.

https://factor.am/328324.html , https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/289450/

law about army draft dodgers

A draft bill is being created that could make future draft dodgers' life harder abroad. There could be active warrants. Prison time will be 2-6 years.

At the same time, a new opportunity will be created for dodgers. Upon turning 27, they could return to Armenia, join the army as contractors, and get paid as other soldiers do. Or they could return to Armenia and pay a penalty size of a 2-year-worth soldier salary.

This is a draft proposal that hasn't even passed a Preliminary parliament committee yet.

https://factor.am/328345.html , https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/289456/

points-based traffic enforcement

A parliamentary committee was reviewing the effectiveness of the recently-approved law that established a points-based punishment. Bill's author says they will have a full picture of the effectiveness when human police patrol begins issuing points to violators; right now points are issues via "technology". Patrol officers will begin deducting points in mid-2022.

There were ~25 fewer deaths after the implementation of the new system.

https://factor.am/328330.html , https://factor.am/328438.html

humanitarian aid for Artsakh

The Armenian church in Germany has donated four excavators to Artsakh and the Defense Ministry.


Artsakh-Hungary education

Graduates of Artsakh State University will have the opportunity to receive a master's degree in the Peter Pazman Catholic University of Hungary. The applicants need paperwork from the church, a cover letter, and English knowledge. The program is financed by the Hungarian university.


Artsakh refugees continue to return to their homes

210 returned today. 49,264 have done so through the Lachin corridor so far.


who stole the cat?

Last night someone vandalized Gevorg Emin's statue in the Lovers' Park and stole the sculpture of a cat that was beside him. Have you seen a black cat?


COVID stats

+2546 tested. +396 infected. +471 healed. +11 deaths. 7952 active.


2 COVID hotspots were discovered in Artsakh

261 tests revealed 143 infections in two villages. The entry and exit have been restricted. To this date, Artsakh has tested 18184, recorded 2174 infections, and 31 deaths.


Russian peacekeepers receive vaccines

2,000 pieces of Sputnik V

vaccines were sent from Russia to Artsakh for peacekeepers. They will receive the first shot in January, with the final one in February.



today in history

Wikipedia was created in 2001.

British Museum in London opened its doors in 1759.

Martin Luther King was born in 1929.


top-5 bestselling Armenian books in December

5) Ինձ պիոններ չնվիրես, by Gohar Navasardyan

4) Լուր չկա, by Gurgen Khanjyan

3) Balzak: a dog's tale, by Leon Ness

2) Կախվածություն, by Syune Sevada

1) Էս ի՞նչ եք անում, տղերք, by Vazgen Sargsyan (late Defense Minister)


donations to Artsakh & recovering soldiers

www.1000plus.am (recovering soldiers & their families)

www.HimnaDram.org (for Artsakh & Armenia)

www.ArmeniaFund.org (U.S. tax-deductible)

news archive



All the accused are considered innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "sound" or "appear" guilty.

Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/ky64ek/jan152021_news_army_dodgers_could_have_multiple/

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