2021 June 9

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Daily news wrap-up

News - Jun/9/2021: (1) Leak shows how "Lavrov Plan" fell apart (2) Lavrov: Karabakh status is yet to be discussed (3) Pashinyan about POWs, border conflict, demarcation, economy, salaries (4) Parties campaign (5) $ Voter bribery $ (6) Crimea = Armenia (7) World Bank & consumer prices (8) Obese kids
by ar_david_hh

This is your 9-minute Wednesday report in 2330 words.

audio leak shows Pashinyan rejected Russian offer because he wanted written assurances that Karabakh would receive status if Armenians withdrew

Pashinyan earlier accused Serj of embezzling funds that could have been spent on the army, before gambling them away in the Monte Carlo casino. In return, Serj said he would publish a "bombshell audio". Today he published the audio, but some have argued that it could end up benefitting Pashinyan.

In the audio, Pashinyan refuses to accept Aliyev's word and wants written assurances regarding Karabakh's status before the Armenian withdrawal from 7 regions.

Transcript of Pashinyan explaining the process:

I went to Sochi on 12 May 2018 where I had the first meeting with Putin, Nazarbayev, and Lukashenko. They told me "you have such a strong public support etc., this is a historic opportunity to resolve the Karabakh conflict."

I agreed and asked them to clarify how the conflict would be resolved. They presented me with what was in Lavrov's Plan. That "Armenia would have to withdraw troops, peacekeepers would be deployed, not one incident would happen."

I told them what I say now: without Karabakh's status it's not even an option. Putin, Nazarbayev, and Lukashenko then said that Aliyev understands that Karabakh cannot be part of Azerbaijan anymore. I replied "wonderful, let's make sure it's on the paper" so we can discuss it. I would then publish that offer so the Armenian public would decide if they accept it.

The trio then tells me Aliyev disagrees to have it on the document because that would make him look like a traitor. I replied that I understood Aliyev was their longtime friend so they don't want him to be viewed as a traitor, but they want me to become a traitor [by giving away 7 regions without a status].

I said that would not work. And as a result of all this, I realized that they want to put me on the same [path], at the end of which was the 2016 April war, despite smiles, drinks, etc.

It became clear to me that I had to escape this path [April 2016] at any cost, even if I have to pretend to be a bit crazy, a bit inadequate, but we have to escape that path. The situation was very risky. //

Serj published the tape as "proof" that it was Pashinyan who drove the negotiations to gridlock by not accepting Russia's offer, something that Serj himself did not accept during his tenure.

In other news, Security Council chief Grigoryan said during an interview today that Serj Sargsyan "knew what was coming", that the war was inevitable, so he gladly bailed out in 2018. More on that later.

https://factor.am/380504.html https://youtu.be/BqwsN3bfpH8 Transcript: https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/215858 Update: Audio https://youtu.be/IQzoHItf02Q

Russian MFA Lavrov about Karabakh's final status:

I understand that many people are talking about the Karabakh status still being undecided. It must be resolved with the participation of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The OSCE, at this stage, should focus on establishing mutual trust so that Armenians and Azeris can live in a secure and economically prosperous environment. We encourage all involved parties to take steps towards the establishment of normal life.

Only then, after a few years, we will have a situation where Karabakh status can be resolved much easier.

... As for unblocking regional communication routes in South Caucasus, the interests of Turkey and Iran cannot be ignored. //

https://tass.ru/politika/11603577 https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1054838.html https://factor.am/380427.html

US is still unsure whether to provide military aid to Azerbaijan

Biden recently authorized military aid. Secretary Blinken said it's not 100% yet, after being pressured by Senator Menendez, who cited Azerbaijan's aggressive policies.

The US had earlier urged Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops from Syunik and Gegharkunik and called for all POWs to be repatriated.

Biden will discuss the Karabakh conflict with Erdogan on June 14, and with Putin on June 16.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1054824.html https://www.panarmenian.net/eng/news/293462/Blinken_US_has_to_continue_to_take_a_look_at_military_aid_to_Azerbaijan

US State Department official Philip Reeker:

We are very concerned about the latest border incidents, including the capturing of six Armenian soldiers and the death of two Azeri journalists on a landmine.

The conflict has taken many lives. Disputes must be resolved peacefully. Any military movement on a non-demarcated border is a provocation. Both sides should withdraw troops and not conduct any fortifications or land mining. The US will continue to provide humanitarian aid.


the repatriated soldier is in Stepanakert

See Tuesday news if you missed details about the fog incident. Azerbaijan returned the soldier. He is in Stepanakert.


Pashinyan about the repatriation of the Armenian soldier on Tuesday:

His return was a very positive step towards de-escalating the border tensions. I'd like to reiterate that I'm ready to exchange my son Ashot in exchange for the return of all captives. I have instructed relevant agencies to officially convey the offer to the Azerbaijani side.


Pashinyan about negotiations to return POWs:

Intensive work is being done to return the captives. I don't want to go into specifics because one wrong sentence could complicate things, but the work is being done in several directions.

[Serj's party criticized Pashinyan saying he should have ensured that the return of all POWs was clearly defined in the November 9 statement, with clear deadlines.]


Our Home is Armenia leader Tigran Urikhanyan (ex-BHK) about POWs and alternatives:

If we win, we will cooperate with Russia to return the POWs. We will be respectful but at the same time demanding. We will contact [Russia] the next morning with the expectation that the issue would be resolved in the evening. If not, we are not afraid of losing power...

... Voters should pay attention to proposed programs. The undecided voters must know that there are alternatives.


Pashinyan about his proposal to resolve the border conflict:

We are ready to implement the proposal I made earlier. Since Azerbaijan claims that the issue is the clarification of borders, we propose for Armenian and Azeri troops to withdraw from those areas, Russian troops to be stationed, and for OSCE Minsk Group to take part in border clarification in the Sotk-Khozavar section.


Pashinyan about an official border delimitation-demarcation:

There are some who try to scare the public with those words, to introduce tensions. There is not a single independent country that has non faced the need to clarify its borders.

I'd like to bring to your attention the statement made by the US co-chair of the Minsk Group: the US is ready to provide expert support for the border delimitation-demarcation process, there is a need to simultaneously fully restore the Karabakh negotiations.


LHK about army reforms:

The borders should be guarded not by conscripts but by professional contractors, with the help of modern high tech.


LHK about the powers granted to President and Parliament:

We should expand their powers. Right now, we have a super-Premier system that lacks checks and balances. Some of the Premier's powers should be transferred to President.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1054839.html LHK leader Marukyan invites Pashinyan for a debate:

Let's discuss the presence and future, instead of the past with the former presidents. Obviously, this is not the format that you intended to have with the former presidents [Levon and Kocharyan refused to debate], but it will be a debate that citizens want to hear. I'm ready to debate Live on any TV outlet.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1054876.html https://youtu.be/57kwIBzFAXI

Kocharyan appeared during a campaign stop in Yerevan

He spoke about the need to remove Nikol Pashinyan. He recalled the difficult economic situation decades ago; "we are returning to improve the economy and create jobs again". He promised to open many construction jobs. He promised to "re-hire public workers fired under Pashinyan for their political views".


Pashinyan about ongoing reforms to increase scientists' salaries:

We have made decisions, as a result of which the scientists will earn 3.5 times more by 2025.

In 2022 alone, the salary fund will almost double from ֏4b to ֏7.7b. It will reach ֏16b by 2025.


Pashinyan about pensions:

We were unable to increase pensions in 2020 due to the pandemic, and in 2021 due to increased military spending.


Pashinyan's colleague about pensions, economy, salaries, loans:

We plan to secure a 7% economic growth in the coming years while cutting unemployment in half. The pension should be high enough to live, and not low to the point that people can't afford the food basket.

We are realistic about our capabilities right now. There are those who promise to forgive the loans with the hope that the majority will believe them. Whoever makes such a promise is lying to you because forgiving loans and increasing pensions without increasing taxes is impossible.

[Context: BHK Tsarukyan promised to forgive the loans, exempt 300,000 families from taxation, etc. Read yesterday's news report for other campaign promises.]


Pashinyan about teachers' salaries:

We increased the salary by 10% in 2019 but they deserve more. That's why we implemented the re-certification program. Teachers in 5 subjects will see a 30-50% raise from November, depending on their exam scores.


Pashinyan about water:

Armenian mountains generate 7 million m3 water. As a result of our irrigation and reservoir projects, we will store 500 million m3 of water. More settlements will have regular water delivery.


Serj's ally Vanetsyan visited Moscow and gave an interview to famous radio host Vladimir Solovyov

He spoke about the need for a deeper integration process between Armenia and Russia and noted that Russia provides security assurances to Artsakh population today.

He said Pashinyan should have officially recognized the independence of Artsakh on the 4th day of the 2020 war.

Vanetsyan said Crimea belongs to Russia. The host initially thought Vanetsyan meant Crimea belongs to Armenia after Vanetsyan said "Crimea is ours".

More: https://youtu.be/EpH5eUK9aXM https://youtu.be/iy7Nmvgk_qc https://youtu.be/J1HeQpXoH8w https://youtu.be/UwYE7yO6zYQ?t=7

voter bribery: felony charges are pressed against two in Gegharkunik

Police report: today the Gavar police department received information that one of the candidates' offices was distributing bribes in the form of food products, in exchange for a vote.

The investigation revealed that yesterday at 9:20 pm, the party's Gavar branch manager A.A. transferred 80 bags of bribe food to the same branch secretary S.Z.'s apartment and instructed them to distribute according to a list.

In the morning, the secretary S.Z. distributed $14-worth packages to eight voters, in exchange for their votes.

A.A. and S.Z. have been detained. We're investigating if others were also involved. //

[The party's name is not officially listed.]


tutorial for voters who are pressured to prove they voted for a specific party or against a specific party


anti-corruption: former mayors busted with land fraud (case reaches court)

Prosecutors' statement: in 2009, the former mayor of Jradzor (Shirak) signed an agreement with a resident to lease a 2.6ha agricultural land for only $10/year. Just a month later, the resident sub-leased a fraction of that land for a much higher price, earning millions between 2009-2016. The former mayor of Jradzor is charged with a felony. The damage was partially recovered.

Similar embezzlement involving the former mayor of Hoghmik (Shirak)

The two cases have reached court.

Full: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1054861.html

the 2018-2020 fight against Shadow Economy

... has resulted in a 40% increase in state revenues, announced the govt today. "In addition to raising expenditure on healthcare [etc.], the minimum age was increased from ֏55k to ֏68k, as a result of which 130,000 workers began earning 20% more. The average nominal salary rose 14% since 2017."


infrastructure upgrades across Armenia

Geghhovit will have a new 6km-long gravity pipeline for irrigation. It's expected to irrigate 450ha of land and cut the losses from water that originates from the Argich river.

The ֏280m project is mostly federally subsidized. 80% is done.


the World Bank predicts Armenia's economic growth

2021: 3.4% (Armenia's Central Bank earlier predicted 1.4% but later said they underestimated it)

2022: 4.3%

2023: 5.3%


consumer prices in May, year-over-year

Overall +5.9% (down 0.4% compared to last month)

Food 7.5%

Alcohol and shoes 5.9%

Utilities 0.9%

Household goods and appliances 9.3%

Healthcare 6.2%

Communication 1.1%

Education 2.1%

Restaurants 4.5%

Hotels 1.1%

Non-food products 9%

Services 2.2%


is your child overweight?

A study was conducted in Armenia to measure the prevalence of excess weight among children. They examined the weight, food habits, physical activity levels.

28% of 7-8 year-olds have excess weight. 13% are obese. 4% are underweight.


COVID stats

3530 tested. 99 infected. 81 healed. 11 deaths. 3129 active. Over 50.2k vaccinated.

414 are in hospitals: 39 critical, 225 serious.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1054831.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1054862.html https://factor.am/380294.html

United States reduces travel threat level for Armenia: COVID decline

The threat level is downgraded from 4 to 3. Karabakh and border conflict zones are discouraged.


Persian-Armenian dictionary

Armenia's public radio editor Tigran Davudyan-Davtyan published a Persian-Armenian dictionary with 25,000 words and phrases, including modern terminology used today. "Iran is the only country in the past 25 years to publish pieces from classic and modern writers.

Iranian embassy's Seyyed Hossein Tabatabai: There are more similarities between Armenian and Persian than we can think. This is especially true when it comes to Old Persian. Many of its words are forgotten. Linguists often rely on the Armenian language to restore them.

Author Tigran: we have words that transferred to us during various periods. Some of the words have been used by both people for the past 2,300 years. I plan to publish a separate book for them.

For example, the Indo-European word daughter is "dustr" in Armenian and "dukhtar" in Persian. Doctor is "bjishk" in Armenian and "hezeshk" in Persian.


news from yesterday, in case you missed


Все Новости за 8 июня 2021 (translated by Impossible-Ad-)


end of report

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

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

Donations: soldiers' families, humanitarian aid, US tax-deductible donation.

Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/nw4gty/news_jun92021_1_leak_shows_how_lavrov_plan_fell/

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[Interview] Lt.Gen. Samvel Babayan about the amount of aid provided by Russia during the war, faulty BUK-1 missiles, battle for Shushi which lasted until November 8, air defense, the Azeri & Armenian army morale, army chief Onik Gasparyan, General Mosi's Lele Tepe "confusion", southern front losses.

Babayan served as Artsakh's Security Council chief during the war. Full interview in the source: https://youtu.be/aTEnAZeBMT8

Q: who is responsible for the 2020 losses?

We need an investigation to reveal what has been done in the past 10 years to understand what lead to this. In my opinion, the military leadership bears the responsibility but I won't rule out that there were politicians who aided the crime.

We gave 4,000 deaths and 1,700 of them were left on the battlefield. That indicates panic and a lack of control, which is a military leadership problem.

Q: not the politicians' fault?

It would be the politicians' fault if they were told to get something but did not deliver it for the army. If the army properly reported that the enemy had certain weapons and that we would need appropriate weapons to counter that, and had the politicians not deliver those weapons, then the politicians would be at fault.

But if the army command did not report, did not articulate what it needs, then the military leaders bear responsibility.

Q: you said earlier that the Generals must answer what they have been doing all these years, to understand whether they were properly countering the Azeri gains. Critics argue that you are protecting the government by blaming it on army officials.

That argument against me would be valid if I critiqued the army now, for the first time. But I've been saying this since 2013. I've sent letters and spoke orally, including in 2016 and 2018. I even mentioned in 2018 that you have one year to obtain these weapons and solve these problems. If you don't, then you should agree to concessions and accept Minsk Co-chairs' offer.

Purchasing weapons should not be done to show that we, too, have weapons. Our weapons must "silence" the enemy's weapon types. This was not done.

They recently said that in 2018 they planned to purchase some weapons by 2025. Okay great. Why don't you also send a telegram to Azerbaijan and ask them not to start a war until 2025? [sarcasm]

Azeris have been purchasing modern weapons since 2010. They switched to a professional army model. We see this, our intel reports this. We know what they purchase. We hear that Russia signed a $6 billion worth of "commercial" weapon deal and that "if not us, then someone else would sell it to them".

Q: in other words, we either had to strengthen the army or agree to concessions?

Exactly. If we say that Russia is our ally, we should have either received weapons from Russia, or Russia could have said "sorry we can't help but we also don't want you to have human losses". Now we have political parties announcing that Russia is our brother, that we need a deeper integration. The truth is, Russia has its own interests in our region.

Q: why do we always rely on others for help?

In the 90s we also asked international players for help but soon realized that no one would. We began preparing and resolving our own problems. The same is true for today. It's not true that we are weak and we can't do anything about it. We need a strong state and investments.

Q: Serj Sargsyan claims they've been purchasing weapons to counter Azeri purchases. For example, Azeris buy a tank, we buy an anti-tank. Serj says Pashinyan broke that format by purchasing useless weapons like SU jets.

No matter what weapon you purchase and install on the ground, if your air is not defended then the enemy easily penetrates with missiles, drones, etc. you will be destroyed. You can have anti-tank systems and expect for a tank to come, but instead, a bomb drops from the air. You panic.

Convoys were not able to reach the battlefield during the war. They were being destroyed on their way. It's all useless if you don't close the air. Israel would take 2,000 rockets had they not caught them in the air.

We knew what we needed. We had to search for countries that had the necessary weapons, but we did not. Instead, we said, "Azeris have Smerch so we will also purchase Smerch".

Q: CSTO gives cheap weapons but restricts what you can buy from third states. You said Armenia would need to "shop around". Should we review our relations with CSTO and Russia?

We need a roadmap to clarify everyone's stance, to understand where Russia is neutral where it's not. Clarify on documents and sign them.

If Russia has a weapon [something about autonomous artillery] that they refused to sell us, its alternative can be found in South Korea and Germany, so we shop around. We tell Russia "if you don't sell us then we will buy from others, don't be upset then." [brings an example of a weapon owned by Russia and Czechia]. The Czech one is actually better. But we can offer Russia to buy from them since they are an ally. If they reject, we buy from Czechia.

Q: but that's a political problem.

Our defense is more important. We just want a weapon to defend. We aren't asking for a nuke. If you have it and don't sell us, we will buy it from others. This should have been clearly communicated with Russia. We did not. We thought Russia would be upset.

Now we have 4,000 deaths. Now they [unclear who] has an attitude that Russia came to help us. This is the problem. Be honest with your ally.

Q: can the current or former administrations do this?

I hear statements that we need to deepen integration with Russia, with some claiming that we are already a Russian province, etc. I do not accept that. We are allies. Russia wants to have influence in this region. We can offer Russia something to achieve that, in exchange for them helping us with our issues.

Russia is our biggest partner but that doesn't mean you shouldn't argue with them over your national interests.

Q: how did Azerbaijan create its advanced army? "NATO-style"? Oil?

I disagree that Azeris had significantly more disciplined and mighty forces. It's a lie. We witnessed it throughout the war. But Azeris purchased the right type of long-range weapons to strike in the rear and cause panic. We couldn't recover from that panic and couldn't close the air.

It's a myth that Azeris more disciplined. On the 5th or 6th day of the war, their chief of staff left. The Minister was [unintelligable]. Then Aliyev's statement that they reached Shushi with rifles, but of course he did not mention the help from mercenaries.

The regular Azeri forces were paralyzed just like ours. We have their telecommunications between them. We have it recorded on paper. We need an investigation to learn what really happened that things went wrong. Which general, which commander, which Minister, which politician.

Q: army reforms

We need to select from 20-30-year-olds. But since during your service you only shot three bullets in total, and you left the army with disappointment years ago, now we offer you a 3-month course: 1-month training, 2 months in positions.

Get used to it, undergo psychological training, view the army in a different light. We will then pick the useful recruits.

That means over 300,000 men will undergo this process in 5 years. Diasporans can join. We will have a professional army.

Make conscription 1 year for 18-year-old conscripts so they can train in the rear, before going home. Those who want to choose the army path will stay, undergo 6mo training, before signing a contract. Free house, salaries, social packages, etc. must be in the package.

You could impose a 1% tax on soldiers' salaries towards insurance to cover social costs during the war. Many things can be done.

But the priority is air defense. You can't cheap out on this.

Q: explain the audiotape that leaked after the war in which you said we should contact Russia, and if they don't help us, we would have to leave Artsakh completely.

I explained the same during and before the Security Council session. From October 21-22 I've been saying that we will lose the war with the weapons we have.

If Russia is your main ally, and they don't provide us with air defense, then we only have one option: why continue and slaughter people? We don't need you to save us. Just give us a weapon we will save ourselves.

If not, all civilians and soldiers should all leave Artsakh and we don't sign any agreements. We leave the door open. Later, we recover and resolve the problem [liberate]. That was my offer.

It was not accepted. Maybe we could not negotiate with Russia? After this, Russia entered Artsakh as saviors. You and I both know they came to protect their own interests. The next 5 years will show us why exactly they came.

Q: what was the level of Russian support during the war?

Russia isn't even required to help us. We should have taken care of our weapons for 25 years.

Georgia has closed borders. Iran is closed; we could not import weapons over the air.

Russia said they would give us bombs and whatever they had in the Russian military base in Armenia, and they did so unconditionally.

They said whatever ammunition Armenians could organize to purchase and transfer from Russia, they would allow it. Through civilian [flights?] and... I won't give all the delivery details.

But air defense was the most important thing. Russia offered BUK-1. Russian experts arrived on October 22 to work on it. On October 27 we learned that 5 out of 6 BUK units were dysfunctional. On November 3 someone was supposed to come from Moscow to renovate it so they would be ready by November 10. [the war ended on 9th]

They made a payment earlier to purchase TOR. Six were given, another six were supposed to arrive on November 2nd [and more later]. I doubt that Russia did not have 20 TOR units at the time.

Why did things advance so slowly? Was it on purpose or negligence? Or perhaps our team wasn't able to convey the message?

Q: about purchasing SU jets

That decision is made by army command. They decided to purchase 12 jets. They explained why they needed them and presented the report to political leadership. The politicians gave them the money.

Q: were SU jets necessary for us?

It could be, if we had its missiles, but that's not what's important. An echelon air defense system should have been created before advancing to the second stage.

Q: Pashinyan recently said former army General Chief of Staff Onik Gasparyan must answer for the fall of Shushi and delaying aid for 2 days.

I don't have specifics about that but the entire general staff in its entirety is responsible for the failure. Their orders and activities must be investigated. No doubt that Onik carries the main responsibility for this. I can't single out operations in Shushi, Jabrayil, ...

Q: ... and Lele Tepe?

... and the Lele Tepe counter-attack. I don't know how the First Army Corps struck, what damages it sustained, etc. it will be revealed through an investigation.

Q: general Movses "Mosi" Hakobyan spoke about Lele Tepe operation

General Mosi is making false statements. He confused two incidents. Imagine you conduct one operation in one area, while another thing happens in the second location. He confused the two and spoke about the other incident. He was corrected so now he is trying to get out of the situation.

The same people whom they appointed as Army Corps [1st] and Brigade commanders are the ones who launched the counter-attack in Jabrayil direction, which you now refer to as "Lele Tepe" or whatever. They sustained losses while attempting.

The area where I was active has nothing to do with that. I didn't even have a communication with them. So Mosi is confused.

Bring the photos of 1,700 soldiers whose bodies were left on the battlefield and check which military station they were serving in. It will give you a clear picture of which commander screwed up.

The army Corps commander, appointed by General Mosi himself, gave 500 deaths and left the bodies on the battlefield. It doesn't fit the narrative.

Q: how did Azeris reach Shushi?

Onik Gasparyan was saying we couldn't defend the newly opened 100km front in the south. I said we should conduct a strike on [unintelligable] Khoradiz [?] section. It would have solved the problem. That's how we liberated Shushi in the 90s. Obviously, we could not have troops stretching from the Armenian border to Martuni.

That's why you split the enemy and keep your breath on their neck so they will fear encirclement if they do not retreat. It's a strategy that I won't talk about now.

By closing that 12km section, we wouldn't allow Azeris to move from Jabrayil-Hadrut-Shushi. We should have thrown all our resources into this to close this gap. But they did not take it seriously so we have what we have now.

Q: the fall of Shushi

You can advance towards Shushi through any of the forests. How did Azeris capture Sghnakh-Chanakhchi? They installed military bases in the same areas we did during the liberation in the 90s. When we climbed up to close from Qirs, they entered through the south, closed the road, and advanced towards the Isabulagh restaurant complex.

Our soldiers then opened frontal fire in an attempt to retake it. I was against it. By 11:30 on November 8, our entire forces moved back because we gave 57 deaths and could not advance a meter forward from the old tank that's installed as a memorial [aka Shushi dump memorial, 1km north of Shushi].

We could not attack from the wings. Our only option was to strike from the Chanakhchi-Sghnakh-Shosh section I mentioned, to close the Azeri path and bases.

The question arises, who gave the order to send and sacrifice 500 soldiers in Shushi direction. Do they understand that if the other troops had earlier retreated after sustaining 57 deaths and failed to advance, that means it was impossible to attack from the front? We should have struck the Azeri supply line through Sghnakh-Chanakhchi.

That's why I offered to launch an operation on November 5-6. The units refused to fight. Let the investigation reveal why.

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/nweuez/interview_ltgen_samvel_babayan_about_the_amount/