2021 January 28
- 1 Daily news wrap-up
- 2 volunteer soldier recalls war events / poor organization of volunteer squads / battles near Shushi and Hadrut / ArmGeo Tigran Varag
- 3 January 28th is the Army Day
- 4 opposition vs Pashinyan
- 5 search operations continue
- 6 Armenia and Azerbaijan exchange POWs
- 7 confirmed: "pro-Russian" Azeri General Chief of Staff is gone
- 8 Transparency International: Corruption Perception Index 2020
- 9 COVID stats
- 10 COVID vs industry
- 11 today in history
- 12 donations to Artsakh & recovering soldiers
- 13 archive of older news
- 14 disclaimer
- 15 Support David's Daily Armenia News Summaries!
Daily news wrap-up
Jan/28/2021: (1) Today is Army Day. Soldiers tell war stories, doctors recall memorable events, public figures make statements about past/present/future (2) Volunteer soldier about battles in the south and near Shushi (3) Armenia and Azerbaijan exchange POWs (4) Transparency International (5) COVID
Your 17-minute Thursday report in 4245 words.
volunteer soldier recalls war events / poor organization of volunteer squads / battles near Shushi and Hadrut / ArmGeo Tigran Varag
ArmGeo founder Tigran Varag talks about the chaotic management and lack of communication when it came to many small volunteer groups:
The army called me on October 17th and summoned for a draft. We were initially told we would undergo retraining, but they took us straight to Artsakh. Within two days, we received weapons, supplies, uniforms, etc. We were taken straight to front lines near Mokhrenes (10km north-west of Hadrut, next to Togh). That was the new frontline because our troops had been retreating.
Our group of 32 volunteers didn't have a commander, plan, map, and communication tools. This was around the time when Pashinyan was encouraging the formation of volunteer groups. When our group first arrived, we thought the army was still organized and present, but after dropping us in Mokhrenes, the army told us to select a commander from within our group. We weren't prepared, we barely knew each other.
There were 5 Mokhrenes villagers there. They each had different ideas on which hill we should guard. Our group decided to split because we had conflicting ideas. There was no proper command.
Eventually, we decided to listen to villagers and take positions on a hill between Mokhrenes and Hakaku (south of Mokhrenes), because as they said, there was supposed to be an attack from Hahaku's direction. This is the area that Azeris later used to create a corridor between Hadrut and Shushi.
We took positions on the hill. Shots were heard from all directions. We didn't know which one was our army because conflicting info was arriving. On the second night, we received an alarming call from Mokhrenes telling us we had 10 minutes to immediately retreat to Mokhrenes. We met him there, he said Turks had already entered and captured Togh village (3km), and his relative was killed. He was emotional.
In Mokhrenes we stayed in a house. Conflicting info came about upcoming airstrikes. We kept moving from one location to another. We eventually decided to split into groups of 8 and patrol the village, because we thought that since the enemy was already in Togh, they could be expected in Mokrenes at any moment.
We spent all night patrolling. In the morning the sun came out, everyone's mood improved, and instead of organizing defense, we began preparing BBQ (bruhh), because one of the local villagers, who was also an officer, told us that the news about Togh being invaded by Turks was false. Later we learned that he was wrong and that the enemy was indeed in Togh.
So instead of organizing defense, we were wasting time and waiting for instructions. Had we known it, we could have taken positions in forests between Mokhrenes and Togh to better defend Mokhrenes.
In the evening, a few of us noticed that Turks were coming. A gunfight began. The officer that had earlier told us Togh was clear, called his General to receive instructions and informed them that there were only 30 of us. The General told the officer to retreat to Tumi (2.5km from Mokhrenes, 5km from Togh).
We went to Tumi where we were supposed to meet Ijevan Unit but they had already retreated. 4 local residents were there. One of them encouraged us to defend the village. We debated whether to defend or retreat. The aforementioned commander told us to retreat because it had been decided so because of lack of manpower.
As we were debating, a rocket strike was launched against Mets Tagher (5km east of Tumi). It destroyed 20 houses. It was likely a Smerch. The village burned down. Everyone thought the next strike would be against Tumi, where we were. We eventually retreated to Kirsavan (17km towards Lachin). We were slowly approaching Qarin Tak/Shushi.
In Kirsavan, we met a few officers and told them we were an unorganized group that needs a plan. I was under the impression that we could have just left and returned to Armenia; there was no oversight. Many volunteers were doing exactly that on those days. As far as I know, thousands of people returned their weapons and went back home.
In Kirsavan, we met a reconnaissance unit who told us they'd give a bus to travel to Askeran, return our weapons, and return home. We went to Askeran, returned the weapons, and everyone was thinking "this is a vacation". Then Colonel Balasanyan (later promoted as General) came and spoke with 300 volunteers like us who had retreated from various parts. Everyone had the same story: no commanders, no plan.
Colonel Balasanyan acknowledged the improper organization and said we should have gone through training first. He decided to take us all to a training camp. After 5 days of vacation and 5 days of training, we were supposed to return to Artsakh. We all agreed.
However, we were never sent for retraining, because they had sent several volunteers and none had returned, so Balasanyan decided not to let anyone go. We were told we'd be sent out on a mission.
Another Colonel, the organizer of this mission, came and told us that anyone who wants to follow him to clean Lachin forests from the enemy should step forward. 9 of us from our 30-group agreed and joined him. We were merged with another group. They didn't give us any training, however. We were just waiting for the deployment day.
Near Qarin Tak (just south of Shushi), we split into groups. We were given a commander from Stepanakert who wasn't any better than the previous ones because he was a reservist officer just like us. He wasn't an experienced career officer. Our group was formed and sent to the Qarin Tak area on October 31st. The enemy was already in Sghnakh (5k from Qarin Tak). We were deployed under artillery fire, which lasted until November 3rd. Our artillery responded initially.
On the night of 3rd, I noticed that the movement ended between Lachin-Shushi because Azeris cut off the road. The enemy artillery worked all night. Then I heard rifle fire coming from the nearby gorge between Qarin Tak and Shushi, while I was expecting the attack from the Sghnakh area. Gunfire from the gorge area meant we were encircled from 4 sides. We woke up and prepared to fight.
Turks were using bullets that leave a trace of light, so we were able to see where the shots came from. They were near Shushi "patstantsia" where Qarin Tak road is. From there, they were shooting towards Shushi. Our troops likely wiped them out because the shots stopped from that area.
After that, a large enemy group attacked from Sghnakh. We were told to retreat to Qarin Tak, which was strange because we were expecting to fight because there was no place to retreat anymore, the next stop was Shushi.
We took positions in trenches in Qarin Tak. Our artillery wasn't working anymore. Eventually, we had to move to Shushi, and there were two ways to do that: eastern side via Hunot gorge, or west where the road is. Hunot gorge was dangerous and we could be encircled. The roadside was also dangerous so we need vehicles and soldiers from Shushi to ensure the road from Qarin Tak was safe.
No heavy equipment was sent in aid, so we decided to take our chance and went towards the road. It turns out there were 20 Armenian troops there. They were insufficiently equipped. Then we went towards Stepanakert. The other 20 were also told to retreat.
Around November 6th the enemy infiltrated Shushi, according to my data. [Reporter Tatul: there were two unsuccessful attacks, on 5th and 7th. Shushi fell on 7th.]
We lost many tourist attraction areas (he is a tourism agency chief). The Al Lich area (Qarvachar) is already under Azeri control. There was confusion earlier over an Azeri video, with people mistaking Al Lich with Lake Sevan in the background.
We are all responsible for this situation. We harvested the yield that we had planted. Of course, the number-one responsible is whoever today's government is.
Reporter Tatul Hakobyan: which country's government? Armenia or Azerbaijan Artsakh? I understand that politically speaking, it's a beat unpleasant when everything is blamed on one individual (Pashinyan). Of course, the number-one responsible is Pashinyan because he is the head of state and the state lost the war. Not individuals, not parties. But don't you think Artsakh's military-political leadership had their share?
Varag: of course.
Reporter Tatul Hakobyan: ..or the population of Artsakh. Let's be honest. The majority left Artsakh early-on without fighting. Right?
Varag: yeah. There were some people who fought the 90s war who gathered their families and moved to Artsakh.
Reporter Tatul Hakobyan: of course not everyone did so. There were heroic battles in Martuni (south-east). They defended the front line while their rear, central Artsakh, was already fallen.
Varag: we are all responsible for this. The corruption and semi-criminal values in the army lead to this. Classically speaking, this wasn't an army. This was a structure where everyone promoted their interests. High-ranking officers were the primary reason. Look at who and how becomes an officer in our army, and what values they bring. "Not serving" in the army is what "lav tgherq" do. I'm still emotionally recovering from the war. I'm organizing tourism trips nowadays.
Tags: #Varag #Volunteer #mobilization #commander #Shushi #QarinTak
January 28th is the Army Day
Wounded boys in hospitals sent congratulations to their comrades in front lines, wishing them strength and a peaceful sky. The hospitals still have many patients from war. The reporters were allowed to meet them.
"During the war, we acted as one family. Our motto was: We are all children of one mother. Thank God, we had no traitors, no one deserted from our unit. I would like to thank our friend Vachagan, who saved our lives by sacrificing his. I would like to see such unity in the whole army," said conscript Vahe Abrahamyan who served in the northern Mataghis region.
General Chief of Staff Onik: We celebrate this day of historic significance with a sense of bitterness, but our hearts are also filled with pride. On September 27, the Armed Forces accepted the challenge with honor, and heroically resisted for 44 days, fighting against the numerically superior enemy forces, causing him big losses. In this unequal struggle, unfortunately, we also suffered irreparable losses, but the enemy will remember the determination of our soldiers for a long time.
We are often criticized today but do not feel despair. We understand that they expected more from us. Our citizens had infinite faith in the Armenian army. I can say with all responsibility that we remained faithful to the oath until the end and fulfilled our sacred duty before the state and the people.
I am confident that 2021 will open a new page for the army to increase its combat capabilities.
"The army needs programmatic and conceptual approaches, radical steps from reorganization to re-equipment. Even the most modern weapons can not lead to the desired result if we do not have the courage to admit mistakes and be ready for fundamental changes," said President Armen Sargsyan in his message on Army Day.
Early in the morning of September 27, the phone of military doctor Vladimir Seyranyan did not stop ringing. The torrent of calls was about one thing: the country is in a war. He had to end the vacation and return to work.
The doctor, who has lost sleep and rest for days, modestly presents his work as if he was on a regular trip. He only mentions that there were many impressive and invigorating episodes during the war.
"We had a stream of wounded. A boy was standing in the corridor and constantly offering to help other soldiers. He was wondering how to accommodate them, what is missing. We served the wounded of that group for about an hour and a half, and I turned to that boy and asked where his wound was. The latter downplayed it and said it was just a scratch on the head. We found a bullet underneath the skin, close to the bone. That was his second birthday. Military medicine emerged victorious from the war."
"Dear soldiers and volunteers of the Armed Forces. Last year was more than difficult for our country, especially for the Armed Forces. It was a year that tested the will of all of us, especially you, to defend the right to live in our homeland. We came out of that ordeal seriously hurt, but at the same time determined to strengthen so that the Armenian people could live forever. Thanks to the sacrifice of all of you, we continue to stand. We knelt, but did not fall, so we can stand stronger tomorrow," said Arsen Torosyan, the Healthcare Minister during the war.
The list of all 14 defense ministers in the Republic of Armenia's history:
Pashinyan visited a hospital to meet soldiers who were recently found alive after missing for 70 days.
PM Pashinyan, Catholicos, and other officials visited Yerablur Pantheon to lay flowers at the graves of Vazgen Sargsyan, Andranik Ozanyan, and the memorial to the fallen soldiers.
"The army remains the axis of Armenia's independent statehood, the guarantor of the security of the people of Artsakh," said Serj Sargsyan. "Armenian Army, our dear child, your birthday is one of the cherished holidays of our people that we have always celebrated with joy. Today, however, the mood is different: we are all sad, grieving the loss of a part of our Homeland."
"The enemy, who has always been afraid of you, knows very well what insidious means he used to achieve his goal. You remain strong, let no one boast that he has defeated you."
"The Armenian Army and people are going through a difficult ordeal in connection with the 44-day war. In this environment of bitterness, we must not forget the heroism of many soldiers, officers, generals, and volunteers. Today we must be able to appreciate the sacrifices made by them, and we must be able to look to the future.
We must be able to ask ourselves what we have not done so far to increase the strength of our army. These issues need to be addressed. Let us be optimistic about building our future security environment. The army continues to be the guarantor of Armenia's security," said PM Pashinyan.
"The modern world does not have a structure in which countries individually can fully ensure their security. Even the most powerful countries in the world are looking for alliances, putting the security of their countries in the logic of mutual assistance. In this respect, Armenia is no exception; we must continue to develop our allied relations with our main security partner Russia."
"Our history and today's events have once again proven the irreplaceable role of the national army as the guarantor of the physical existence of our people. Unfortunately, our reforms in the army over the past 2.5 years have not been able to reverse the military imbalance with the enemy. During the war, the Army showed on an individual level such examples of courage that will not only be remembered but will become a model for the study of modern martial arts," said Deputy PM Tigran Avinyan.
"I warmly congratulate all of you on the Defender of the Fatherland Day. This year we remember this cherished holiday in a special way, the symbol of the day is also special," said Artsakh MFA Babayan.
Artsakh war memorial monument was installed in Armenia's Vedi city. Artsakh president Arayik and others went to pay tributes.
Armenia has 3 new national heroes for their contributions to the creation of the army: Gurgen Dalibaltayan, Hrachya Andreasyan, and Tatul Ghazaryan. Their biographies:
opposition vs Pashinyan
Catholicos Garegin B was asked to comment whether he still demands PM's resignation. "There is no change in our position," he said. "The church is guided by national interests. If the position of the church is in line with the views of certain political parties, it should not be interpreted as support for those parties."
Garegin B was asked to comment on the situation around churchman Kchoyan and the luxury Bentley owned by him (the churchman is going through offshore fraud felony investigation). "He sold the Bentley and donated the funds to people in need," said Garegin, urging the media to also report the news about the charity work done by the church.
ArmNews media outlet wanted to know if the time has come for Church to once again lead the country, as it was done in the past (bruhhh). Catholicos Garegin responded, "Taking the role of political leadership was done in times when we didn't have statehood. The church fought for centuries to achieve statehood and we will fight to strengthen it." (that's a "no" I guess?)
Azatutyun reporter wanted to know why the church was not critical of previous governments when elections were being rigged and people being killed during March 1st events, while nowadays it has taken an open anti-government position (even before the war, may argue). Catholicos Garegin responded, "The church decides how to raise its voice depending on circumstances."
Hanrapetutyun party leader Aram Sargsyan: We need maximum unity to analyze the situation and stand on our feet, instead of mauling and calling each other traitors. Can we receive answers about the war under the current administration? This question has been asked in the past 20 years under every administration, and the answer is yes.
But in the current judicial system, the current authorities cannot prosecute people. These courts would gladly prosecute the authorities. I believe that this judiciary is not independent - it operates on the orders of the previous authorities.
Unfortunately, Azerbaijan fought with 21-century weapons supplied by our military ally Russia, while we fought with 20-century weapons. I do not blame Russia for this. When Armenia joined EAEU in 2014, Serj Sargsyan announced that we are going where we prefer security. I've always been against joining EAEU; it didn't protect our security.
The Armenian side has been deceiving itself for a long time, believing that Russia would help stop the war, as in 2016. The Lavrov Plan proposed by Russia coincided with the model proposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan. The Russian army was supposed to enter Artsakh as a savior who saves us from the genocide.
ARF leader Ishkhan Saghatelyan was asked why the 17 opposition parties [allied with former reigme] haven't organized any protests lately. "There will be a [massive] protest and acts of disobedience on February 18th. There is a nationwide demand to remove Nikol Pashinyan, but we have not been able to turn that demand into a nationwide struggle. We will analyze it. The claim that our movement is over is not true."
One of the 17-party members, Suren Surenyants, earlier announced that he is leaving the alliance because "it serves Serj and Kocharyan." ARF Saghatelyan denied serving anyone's interests. "We didn't ask anyone to join our movement, and we won't ask anyone to stay in our movement. May God be with him."
A group of nationalist activists organized their own protest in Republic Square, emphasizing that their meeting is not politically partisan in nature. "I saw members of various political parties here, but this is bipartisan," said co-organizer Arshak Zakaryan, a restaurant owner with whom you may be familiar with from his YouTube channel where he would occasionally visit army units to donate random stuff long before the war, whose restaurant was once criticized by Pashinyan for not printing sales receipts to possibly "avoid taxes".
The protesters tried to break into the government building but were blocked by the police forces. Dozens were arrested. Arshak Zakaryan called today's mission over and urged participants to go home, with the hope that their ranks will grow next time.
Aereal observation counted 2150 participants as of 3:30 pm (please do not shoot me for mentioning this, thank you)
The NSS detained a nationalist opposition figure Vahan Badasyan, who earlier said that the option of using weapons to physically remove Pashinyan is on the table, and that he must be physically destroyed. "Yes, I'm making physical threats," said Badasyan before being arrested.
Context: opposition criticized Pashinyan for not giving away Artsakh's 7 adjacent regions to Azerbaijan during the initial period of the war, and for not agreeing to repopulate Shushi with ethnic Azeris in exchange for the deal offered by Russia and Azerbaijan. In his defense, Pashinyan expressed doubt that repopulating Shushi with 90% Azeri population would keep Shushi "Armenian". Some opposition figures presented his words in their own way, claiming that Pashinyan said "Shushi is an Azeri city."
Today Pashinyan was confronted by an opposition reporter about it. Pashinyan responded, "Write down my exact words and show me where I said Shushi is an Azeri city, and I will respond to you."
Pashinyan had earlier accused former administrations of intentionally neglecting Shushi, not investing in its development for decades, and keeping it "grey and murky." He accused his predecessors of knowingly leaving the 7 adjacent regions under-developed.
search operations continue
The crews discovered 3 bodies in Martuni and Jabrayil regions. 1321 since the November 9th ceasefire.
Armenia and Azerbaijan exchange POWs
A group of Armenians held a placard in front of the Azerbaijani embassy in Moscow, urging them to release POWs as agreed upon in the November 9th statement.
Catholicos Garegin B said he's been discussing the possibility of speaking with Pope about POWs.
"International pressure is growing. Azerbaijan will understand the urgent need to resolve the issue of captives," said Foreign Minister Ayvazyan. "In order to talk about stability, security and peace in the region, first of all, an atmosphere of trust must be created."
Deputy PM Avinyan: with the effort of the NSS and Russian side, 5 POWs have returned home. The 62 volunteer soldiers from Tavush who were captured in Artsakh had a video call with their relatives. (Context: NSS chief had earlier went to Russia to discuss the POW issue with his Russian and Azeri counterparts. Other trilateral NSS meetings were held on Nakhijevan, Tavush, and Syunik borders. At the time, some Telegram channels spread rumors that the meeting was about "selling lands", while NSS said they were discussing POW issues.)
The 5 POWs who returned today were part of the group of 62 Tavush volunteers. "The fact that the first group is already in Armenia means that the process is moving forward, despite some complications over felony cases launched against them in Azerbaijan," said an Artsakh official.
It turns out Armenia held some Azeri POWs. Armenia returned 1 Azeri in exchange for the 5 Armenians. The process was mediated by Russian peacekeeper chief Rustam Muradov.
confirmed: "pro-Russian" Azeri General Chief of Staff is gone
Russian reporter Semyon Pegov from WarGonzo published a report during the war, claiming that Azerbaijan's general chief of staff Najmeddin Sadykov was "fired" and fled to Russia under the pressure of the Turkish side because he was against the Turkish takeover of the Azeri army, comparing it to "sharing wives."
Sadykov's personal page was wiped clean from the army website, while the Azeri MoD fired Sadykov's relative from another high-ranking army position.
The Azeri army confirmed that Sadykov is no longer in the army. The official reason is "heart surgery in Russia."
Transparency International: Corruption Perception Index 2020
Armenia improved its positions among 180 state, moving from 77th to 60th place. +7 points, from 42 to 49. It is the best progress in the past 8 years.
Georgia 45th (down), Armenia 60 (up), Belarus 63-66 (up), Turkey 86 (up), Azerbaijan 129 (down), Russia 129 (up), Iran 149 (down)..., Syria/Somalia/South Sudan.
This year's report includes a government's response to COVID and its effect on the level of corruption in the healthcare sphere and the weakening of democratic institutes and norms.
"Armenia has adopted a gradual approach to reform, leading to stable, positive anti-corruption reforms. At the same time, according to Transparency International, the existing problems in the judiciary are still a challenge for the full success of the fight against corruption," said Justice Minister Badasyan, citing the report.
1980 tested. 242 infected. 592 healed. 11 deaths. 6195 active.
Former president Serj is infected. His wife passed away from COVID recently.
COVID vs industry
YoY the overall industry -0.2%, reaching ֏1.832 trillion ($3.767 billion).
Mining industry +12.7%, at ֏363 billion.
Manufacturing industry -3.4%, at ֏1.217 trillion.
Electricity/gas industry +0.4%, at ֏231 billion.
Water/waste management/recycling industry -14.4%, at ֏19 billion.
today in history
1885: writer Vahan Teryan was born
1985: the famous charity song "We Are the World" was written by "USA for Africa" group
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/l77zmr/jan282021_1_today_is_army_day_soldiers_tell_war/
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|2020 Daily Armenia Reports|
|2021 Daily Armenia Reports|