2021 January 25

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Daily news wrap-up

Jan/25/2021 news: __ Shushi mayor about defense battles in city and outskirts, president Arayik's visit, famous speech, artillery __ Tax stats __ Anti corruption __ COVID & investigation __ Foreign affairs __ Tonoyan interview __ POW & searches __ Housing for Artsakh __ Multiple education reforms
by ar_david_hh

Your 16-minute report in 3801 words. Part 1.

Parliamentary Committee to investigate govt's handling of pandemic

Opposition LHK and BHK parties recently formed a Committee to examine what was done right and wrong during the pandemic. Today the Committee appointed several members and began its work.

Headed by LHK MP Arkadiy Khachatryan, they will examine the effectiveness of preventative steps taken by the Emergency Taskforce that was lead by Deputy PM Tigran Avinyan during the early days.

The Committee's ruling QP member cast doubt on the objectiveness of some members, noting that the members had earlier accused the government of failing the pandemic, "therefore these members cannot provide objective and fair assessment; they've already made up their mind about the government failing it."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041278.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041280.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041287.html

anti-corruption: small hydro plant and State Property Management

Investigative Committee said: the director of Ani OJSC wanted to pay fewer taxes and earn more income. He decided to use his "Jradzor" small hydro plant on the Akhuryan river to manipulate finances to present some unqualified expenses as deductibles.

To do this, in 2017 he contacted the Prime Minister's office to purchase Jradzor and Akhuryan water canals, a tunnel, and an adjacent area. He claimed that they would be used for providing water to a settlement, and were an important part of the project.

The petition was sent to the State Property Management department. PM's office informed the Property department that the repair of the irrigation system will supply water to 9 settlements, which means the project cannot be considered as "local" small scale, therefore the businessman wouldn't qualify for benefits.

The Property department assessed the value of the property that Ani director wanted to purchase, and found it to be ֏200 million. The director decided to pay less than that, so he used personal connections in the Department to falsify data and reduce its valuation to ֏30 million.

The head of the Property Department was made aware that the number is intentionally reduced, yet he agreed to authorize it.

[a few more falsifications later]

֏615 million worth of properties, which had strategic importance for the state, were given to the director for only ֏22 million. Several public officials and the director are charged with multiple felony counts.


anti-corruption: former Syunik governor as suspect

Investigative Committee said: we invited former Syunik governor Vahe Hakobyan to answer questions as part of a felony investigation over an embezzlement/waste. The Auditor Chamber had conducted a financial audit in 2019 and found irregularities.

Former Vahe Hakobyan, two of his aides, and his chauffeur did not attend work between 2017-2018 but received salaries.


anti-corruption: dirty cop caught stealing cash

Police report says: a citizen of Iran visited Armenia on January 8th. He was thoroughly searched at Zvartnots airport upon arrival. Among other things, he was carrying €1,200 in cash. The sum was wrapped, and as it was being transported between facilities, a policeman stole €400 from it. A felony case is launched against the policeman.


ruling QP party leader could resign and become US ambassador if approved

The QP party hasn't discussed the replacement of leader Lilith Makunts and her appointment as ambassador, but such discussions are present at other cabinet levels. Critics accused Makunts of being inexperienced, while former regime MPs called her "America's agent" in Armenia (wouldn't that make her a good candidate then?). BHK MP Zohrabyan believes Makunts is running away to America to escape legal responsibility when the government changes and "felony cases are launched against current government members".

Analyst Ruben Mehrabyan disagrees with the attacks against Makunts, calling it unfair. "The US-Armenia relations, which have been at a low level, need a restart. It's important to understand what her mission would be if appointed. As for BHK Zohrabyan's claims that by becoming ambassador she is trying to escape a criminal punishment in Armenia, that's from the Sci-Fi genre."

https://factor.am/331434.html , https://factor.am/331668.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/205146

Foreign Minister Ayvazyan visits Georgia

MFAs of Armenia and Georgia had a detailed discussion on the current multi-sectoral agenda between the two states. They discussed ways to promote decentralized cooperation. They also discussed regional security issues. "Only lasting peace can create real guarantees for security, stability, and development in the region."

Ayvazyan had a gift for his Georgian counterpart: an image from the Soviet movie "Memeno" featuring Armenian and Georgian actors, inside a picture frame. "Armenia and Georgia are united by the centuries-long neighborly relations that are rich with episodes that testify to friendship." (does my man know that Memeno was filmed in 1977 and not centuries ago? /s)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041225.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041226.html

hooligans throw rocks at Armenian trucks

Georgian authorities are investigating an incident involving allegedly Azeri residents throwing rocks at Armenian trucks. Georgian police accompanied the trucks to the border for safety.


first president LTP spoke with Russian ambassador

Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Sergey Kopyrkin discussed the POW issue for 90 minutes. LTP noted that the repatriation of POWs will greatly benefit the future regional plans and improve public mood in Armenia.


Foreign Minister Ayvazyan spoke with UNESCO leadership

… about the protection of Armenian cultural heritage in areas that went under Azeri control. Ayvazyan welcomed UNESCO's decision to send a fact-finding group.


Russian military delegation visited Armenia

… to participate in talks about Armenian-Russian bilateral military cooperation, and future plans.


former Defense Minister Tonoyan about the war, preparation, and modernization

Question: after the war, some people were reminded about your "new war, new territories" statement. Do you regret saying that?

Tonoyan: the statement, which was made 1.5 years ago, was in response to Azerbaijani military-political leadership's statement about solving the conflict with the use of force. They were justifying their planned use of force by claiming the negotiations were ineffective.

Regardless of how much our opposition and Aliyev regime insist, my statement could not have been the reason for the failure of negotiations and resumption of war. The Azeri leadership was talking about military action on daily basis. It should be noted that it was Azerbaijan who rejected peaceful negotiations.

The work that the Armenian army began in 1994 to strengthen Artsakh borders, the weaponry, the organization of border patrols, were not a proper long-term solution to Artsakh's security needs.

Question: you said that Armenian special forces could enter Azeri territory and create chaos in the back in the event of war.

Tonoyan: Yes, the creation and training of the aforementioned special forces, the addition of modern multi-purpose jets, the introduction of drones, were the eventual goal. The presidential decree signed in February 2018, aimed at modernizing the army, and the additions that were made to the decree later, were not yet fully implemented. We didn't have time to prepare for the war.

In June 2020 I mentioned that we began a large-scale operation to modernize the army, from rifles to long-range missiles, to multi-function aviation, but we were at the initial stages of it. Its goal was to create mobile units and precise weapons controlled automatically that would allow decentralized and independent action. We underestimated the risks involving the level of Turkey's direct involvement, the use of jihadists, and difficulties with weapon imports due to blockade.

If my conceptual approaches are assessed as "loud", "detached from reality", then the incompetence, weakness, and melancholy of some Armenian politicians are a threat to the security of our people. We have lost an unequal battle, but that does not entitle anyone to play with the national dignity of our people. We need to stop this psychologically exhausting political terror of people and instead of injecting a complex of inferiority, analyze the mistakes, learn and work.

Question: you worked for Kocharyan then Serj, before joining the Pashinyan administration. Some people accused you of treason for joining Pashinyan's team. (is there anyone who is not a "traitor")

Tonoyan: I accepted the job in the Sping of 2018 and agreed to work for the Republic of Armenia. As for my personal relations with former and current officials, that's private.

Question: General Chief of Staff Onik said on June 12 2020 that Turkey would be involved in a war, and recommended using diplomacy to end the war as soon as possible. What was your assessment?

Tonoyan: Onik read our joint statement.

Question: why the PR campaign after the July victory?

Tonoyan: PR was the last thing that interested the military. From the military standpoint, the army's actions were almost flawless. But we were surprised by the unbalanced attitude of Aliyev, to which were added the rather harsh "brotherly" assurances of Turkey to punish Armenia.

Question: there are reports of chaotic situation in the army and inexperienced people being involved with decision making.

Tonoyan: an investigation will answer those questions.


mayor of Shushi about the war, President Arayik, Seyran Ohanyan, some rumors, Shushi defense, artillery

Mayor said: Azeris should not have been allowed to approach Shushi. The defense should have started from Hadrut (easy said?). Maybe the defense was improperly organized, maybe commanders weren't in place. There are also reports that some Armenian-speaking Azeris infiltrated our forces and told soldiers to retreat (note: this is a rumor). In any case, if the defense was properly organized they wouldn't have to retreat.

When Azeris reached Sghnakh and approached Qarin Tak (just south of Shushi), we had troops in Qarin Tak. I don't know why these forces left the area on November 3rd. Azeri tanks subsequently entered that area and opened fire at our positions. Qarin Tak defense forces couldn't defend it themselves.

Conversations with our boys reveal that the artillery didn't work properly here. We went to a location where there was supposed to be artillery but couldn't find artillery guns; only ammo. That artillery was working excellent before that. When Azeris had reached Chakhmakh, that artillery worked really well against them, forcing them to retreat a lot. Couldn't they (Armenian commanders) inform us before removing the artillery? This is one of the reasons why we lost: not enough communication, cluelessness.

A lot of lies were being circulated in defense forces. President Arayik Harutyunyan was also fed with lies. Arayik visited Shushi on November 5th to familiarize himself with the situation. Commander Seyran Ohanyan told Arayik that the situation was unbearable and dire. Arayik then asked a Colonel about the situation and the latter said "it's all great". But there was nothing great. Azeris had reached Qarin Tak.

President Arayik then went to meet a mobilized reinforcement force that arrived from Armenia. They didn't have commanders so they were against being deployed in the front line. They were afraid and left Qarin Tak after a bombardment earlier, so Arayik wanted to meet them for moral support. After the meeting, the troops were cheered up and agreed to take up frontline positions.

When President Arayik gave the speech about Azeris being only 5km from Shushi, I had evacuated Shushi residents to Goris and I was located in Goris. I received calls from panicked people about Arayik's video; they were asking me if Azeris were truly 5km away or it was the distance "over the air". At night I returned back to Shushi and learned that Azeris were further, near Avetaranots (10km). The 5km was maybe "over air".

https://factor.am/331525.html , https://factor.am/331541.html , https://youtu.be/i9vEYXqLHT4

Tags: #Shushi #ArayikHarutyunyan #5kilometers #ShushiDefense #artillery #SeyranOhanyan #ShushiMayor #Mobilization #MobilizedForces #ArtsrunHovhannisyan

Greece to purchase destroyers from France amid worsening ties with Turkey

$2.8 billion for 18 Rafale units.


Armenia and Iran sign memorandum over economic cooperation

Economy Minister Qerobyan visited Iran where met state officials and businesses representing industry, mining, and trade. They signed a cooperation memorandum.

"During the exchange of views, numerous issues related to the strengthening of trade ties between Armenian and Iranian were raised."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041240.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041325.html

Armenian delegation in PACE

LHK MP Marukyan is one of the Armenian representatives in PACE. Before a session began, he expressed complaints about Azerbaijan intentionally delaying the POW swap process. Marukyan held a sign reading "Freedom to the Armenian prisoners of war kept in Azerbaijan."

https://youtu.be/0FDAILMXIKI , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041315.html

Another delegate BHK MP Zohrabyan urged PACE to take all steps to ensure the safe and unconditional return of POWs.


"Armenians and Azeris cannot coexist as long as genocidal policies are in place"

Armenian PACE delegation leader QP MP Rubinyan gave a speech and said it's impossible for ethnic Armenian and Azeri civilians to live together for as long as the Azeri govt continued the Armenophobic policies (could we have 90% Azeri and 10% Armenian population in Shushi? Discuss...). He urged for speedy repatriation of POWs and the termination of felony investigation against them in Azeri prisons.


search operations in Artsakh

7 bodies were found during search operations in northern and southern regions adjacent to Artsakh. Another 30 bodies of Armenian soldiers were transferred by the Azeri side. The latter did not specify where the bodies were found (Azerbaijan conducts its own operations to find Azeri bodies). The bodies were not possible to recognize so a medical test will be necessary.

3439 bodies have been discovered since the beginning of the war. 72 of them were identified over the weekend.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041186.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041201.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041231.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041261.html

SOAD' online fundraiser to support wounded soldiers

Rock band System of a Down will launch a fundraiser on January 30th. The live event will help soldiers who need prosthetics.



Artsakh refugees continue to return to their homes

268 did so over the weekend, bringing total to 50,658 via Lachin road alone.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041194.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041232.html

10,000 families need housing / New housing project begins / Pilot program to select best design

Diaspora Committee chief Sinanyan visited Artsakh to discuss the progress on building housing for displaced families and refugees. The Minister of Urban Development presented a new program that builds wooden houses at a faster pace.

During the first phase of this program, 5 lightweight wooden single-family houses will be built. They'll be 80m2 with 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Each one will have an adjacent 1,000 m2 land.

These 5 units are part of a test pilot. Each will have a unique design. The research will reveal which design suits best for that location's climate and conditions. Then, within 3 years, the government will build 7,000 more.

As for repairing the existing damaged houses so residents can return, 4300 repair petitions were filed, 2000 processed, 1200 already repaired. 800 residents were given supplies so they can repair it themselves. 800 repairs are underway.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041205.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041275.html

7,000 Artsakh children continue their education in Armenia

Education Ministry says there are 7,000 refugee children in Armenian schools, but the number continues to change as more families return their homes. The refugee children weren't required to go through the regular admission process and were provided with books.


Artsakh schools continue to open their doors for students / Shosh

Shosh village school has been renovated and is serving 65 students, said the All Armenia Fund (www.HimnaDram.org). The school was built in 2004 with Himnadram's funds. It's currently considered a border village. The majority of residents have already returned to their homes, and almost all students are attending the classes.


heavy snow in Artsakh/ government asks residents for help

Heavy snow hit Artsakh capital Stepanakert. The roads and sidewalks were covered in a thick layer. Since Artsakh had lost some equipment during the war, and there equipment and manpower shortage, the authorities have asked residents for help with cleaning. "We continue to work towards utilizing existing resources to their full capacity."


state regulator examines sunflower oil price hike

Economic competition commission learned that large oil sellers in Armenia have increased the prices since December 1st. The investigation has found the following:

96% of imports came from Russia. Import prices increased by 6-16%. Armenian importers pay with Dollar and Ruble, while Dram devalued against the two by 4%.

Last year Russia had smaller supplies due to pandemic, and combined with smaller sunflower harvest yields, the oil price increased by 26% in Russia. The largest Russian oil seller Efko, which has 9% of the market share, increased its prices by 48%.

In Armenia, consumers were paying 14% more on January 11th vs December 1st. The State Regulator needs more time to conduct a comprehensive examination to see if that level of increase is justified.


COVID stats over the weekend and Monday

4898 tested. 461 infected. 673 healed. 17 deaths. 7362 active.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041183.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041229.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1041270.html

highway robbery

Education Ministry won't provide Spring vacations to 3-12 graders because they've missed too many Autumn classes due to the pandemic and war. The decision could change depending on how the pandemic unfolds.


Ministry to examine why students miss classes, and provide aid

Some students routinely miss classes so Education Ministry wants to know their location. Ministry will create a procedure for the registration of children with special educational needs, and for students who miss too many classes.

The reform is being drafted in conjunction with other govt agencies. They'll need to decide the number of missing days that will trigger a response to investigate.

For example, if the child misses for 6 days, the Ministry will examine why, and if it's healthcare-related, medical aid or remote learning aid could be provided. "This is an unprecedented mechanism that will work for the first time," said the deputy Minister.


update: education reforms will change how schools receive funding

Current system: funds are issued based on the "number of students". Ministry believes this is inefficient and has corruption risks. Smaller schools in provinces - and there are many of them - face many difficulties.

New rules: the funding will be issued based on the type of the facility and the peculiarities of its educational programs. School funding can also be increased through additional options. Schools no longer have to form large 35-student classes for more funding; less burden on teachers. They can create multiple smaller classes.


Ministry wants every child to attend preschool

"There is a lot of research on the Early Childhood Development Index that shows the importance of getting appropriate services for child development at an early age. This is why the government has a plan to ensure that over 70% of children attend preschools."

Competition to select providers of alternative preschool services will soon be announced, which will be open to rural communities where there are no preschool services. The Ministry will provide a grant to provide this service.


retail trade turnover in EAEU bloc during 2020

Small-scale trade in Armenia was $2.4 billion, down -16.6%.

EAEU -4.1%. Russia -4%. Belarus +2%. Kazakh -5%. Kyrgyz -17%.

Total retail turnover in the bloc was $468.3 billion.


telecom revenue in 2020

֏129.7 billion in revenues during the 11 months of 2020, which is down by -3.4%.

Programming and broadcasting Radio brought ֏2.1 billion (-7.4%), and for TV it was ֏9.8 billion (-9.7%).

The telecommunication sector was ֏17.8 billion or -2.7%.


top-1000 taxpayers paid 71% of all taxes / VAT is the king

IRS collected ֏1.523 trillion in 2020 but ended up keeping ֏1.385 trillion after giving ֏138 billion back to businesses.

Top-1000 largest taxpayers paid 71% of the sum.

90% came from VAT payers.


2020 recordbooking stats / before and after pandemic

IRS collected 453 million documents submitted by businesses that provide details about trade turnover and sales. That number is -0.5% compared to 2019. In contrast, during the pre-pandemic January-February months, it had grown by +34%.

The reported trade turnover reduced by -1.5% or ֏114 billion, totaling ֏6.4 trillion. During the pre-pandemic months it had grown by +19%.

The IRS increased sales receipts printing enforcement in 2020, making 14K visits or +28%.

IRS caught 15 businesses with "high tech cheating". They would print a receipt for the customer but use a software to insert smaller sales numbers in the database that's transmitted to the IRS. Round-the-clock monitoring was established against them.


average monthly number of jobs / more people are paying their taxes

During the pre-pandemic January-March period, monthly job positions rose not only month-to-month but also YoY for a given month. The main drop began in April when the government introduced restrictions. Taxpaying jobs went from 620,000 to 547,000.

However, throughout the year 2020, there were 609,000 workers every month on average. That's up by +1.2% compared to 2019, said the IRS. They attributed the increase mostly to the rise in the number of taxpayers who promptly paid their taxes.

"On September 2020, the number of tax-paying jobs reached 632,000, the highest ever."


new year, lower taxes and faster refunds for businesses

Businesses have until April 20th to file their 2020 taxes. They'll pay 18% profit tax instead of 20%.

Income taxes will lower from 23 to 22%, and continue to reduce by 1% annually until 2023.

Additionally, IRS says there is another proposal related to VAT reform that would allow businesses to receive refunds faster. Many Businesses will begin to receive VAT refunds on imported and purchased goods every month instead of every quarter. VAT refunds will be issued immediately after IRS calculates them, instead of waiting a month.

The business can choose any period of not less than 1 year to calculate depreciation and further deduct it from the income tax as an expense.


Dzoravan school gets a solar panel

5kW panels with an annual 7500 kWh will help power Dzoravan school.


Icelandic man receives world's first double-arm-and-shoulder transplant surgery

The man lost both arms years ago. "Giving a little to somebody who was missing so much, that’s already a lot,” said Aram Gazarian, the Lyon-based lead surgeon.



music news

14 members of the popular Russian Mariinski Theater are in Armenia. The staff includes Grammy-nominated director Ilya Petrov and conductor Valery Gergiev.

They are recording footage of Beethoven's 1,2,5, and 9 Symphonies performed by the Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra. The recording is done professionally with imported PTS equipment from 10 angles, under the direction of multiple operators. The footage will be made available to the international audience.


today in history

1479: the 15-year-long war ends between Venice and the Ottomans.

1554: Brazilian city Sao Paolo is founded.

1947: Al Capone dies.


cargo plane with humanitarian aid arrives from Germany

It brought 30 tons of medicine, medical devices, social welfare items, two micro-buses with accommodations for disabled people. The transfer was organized by the embassy in Germany, the church, and Silva Kaputikyan Female Union.

The German government had provided €2.5 million in aid to Armenia via the Red Cross.


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)

archive of older news



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/l4zxrj/jan252021_news_shushi_mayor_about_defense_battles/

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