2021 March 11

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

Mar/11/2021 news: (1) Poll: elections, party support, outlook (2) Sarkissian-Pashinyan duel: new CoGS (3) Parties respond to Sarkissian's offer to meet (4) POW repatriated (5) Search and DNA (6) Foreign affairs (7) Most trusted media (8) Vaccination expands (9) VAT credit (10) Only $6/hour (11) more
by ar_david_hh


Your 12-minute Thursday report in 2901 words.

morning after: CoGS Onik is fired / President and Pashinyan argue over replacement / Justice Minister responds

Chief of General Staff of Army Onik Gasparyan was officially fired yesterday after president Sarkissian refused to challenge Pashinyan's termination decree in the Constitutional Court. Instead, Sarkissian chose to challenge the law about terminating military officials as a whole. Simultaneously, Onik and the other terminated deputy CoGS have filed separate lawsuits in the Lower Court with a hope to get their jobs back; first trials will begin around May.

Opposition LHK leader Edmon Marukyan claimed yesterday that the Constitutional Court, which has 30 days to decide whether to accept Sarkissian's petition, has the ability to apply a temporary emergency measure to prevent Onik from being fired for now.

Reporter: there is an argument that if the Constitutional Court suspends the disputed provision, it'll suspend Onik's termination.

Justice Minister Badasyan: the Constitutional Court cannot suspend Onik's firing as a temporary emergency measure because that's only done when there is a possibility of great harm to either party. Besides that, Onik's termination has already been finalized and there is no "pending" event that can be suspended.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045719.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045738.html

a similar Pashinyan-Sarkissian standoff unfolds around CoGS replacement pick

With Onik Gasparyan fired, the CoGS office needs a new chief. Pashinyan nominated former CoGS Artak Davtyan. Sarkissian has to approve him for the nomination to finalize.

Sarkissian found issues with the nomination and returned the documents to Pashinyan.

Pashinyan found issues with Sarkissian's justifications for returning the decree and sent it back to him.

Sarkissian said he won't sign it but won't send it to the Constitutional Court, either. That means Artak Davtyan will become the new CoGS in a few days.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045761.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045770.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045794.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045817.html

political parties respond to Sarkissian's offer to meet and de-escalate the situation through a dialogue

Yesterday, president Sarkissian invited all political sides to join and discuss the events. He asked them to either accept or deny the invitation by the end of today, so he can prepare the meeting for Saturday.

Ruling QP and opposition LHK parties accepted the offer today. "We are ready to take part in any discussion where it will be possible to restore civil solidarity," said LHK Marukyan.

Opposition BHK said they are yet to hold an inn-party meeting to discuss.

Vazgen Manukyan Camp appears to have its own plans. They reiterated support for their own approach, and that they will only discuss Pashinyan's resignation as the next immediate step, and that it has to be done in Parliament. (sounds like a "no"?)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045749.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045753.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045766.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045801.html , https://factor.am/347248.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045814.html , https://youtu.be/yX667pJ6Nws?t=40

POW Maral Najaryan is released after 4 months in captivity

Lebanese-Armenian Dashnak MP Hakob Bagratuni: efforts were made by us, the Red Cross, Lebanese Foreign Ministry, BHK MP Zohrabyan, to release Lebanese citizen Maral Najarian. She is home with her family now.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045721.html

Parliament Speaker Mirzoyan thanked his Russian counterpart Valentina Matvienko for mediating the release of POW Najarian. The two officials had earlier held a meeting about releasing several female POWs.

Mirzoyan nominated Matvienko to receive Parliamentary Honor Medal.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045790.html

Lebanese Foreign Minister thanked the Red Cross and the authorities of RU, AZ, AM for their role.

http://nna-leb.gov.lb/en/show-news/125838/Wehbe-thanks-contributors-to-release-of-Lebanese-Armenian-Maral-Najarian-from-captivity

More about Maral Najaryan. She is the businesswoman lady who was featured in a TV interview before the war:

https://youtu.be/YikCHv1WDyM?t=7

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208673

An interview about how she fell captive. Maral and Vigen went to Shushi to get Vigen's property on November 10th, a day after the ceasefire, thinking it would be safe. Azeris stopped their vehicle on their way. At first, they agreed to let them go, but after seeing Vigen's photos as a volunteer soldier in the past, they held them captive.

Full: https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208703

https://www.shantnews.am/news/view/870292.html

search operations & DNA identification of bodies

Search crews found 3 bodies on the southern battlefield today.

Healthcare Minister: DNA tools have been used to identify >2,200 bodies since the beginning of the war. There are no bodies [that require a DNA identification] that haven't undergone a DNA analysis. 180 cases are pending.

210 bodies are very difficult to analyze; some of them are kept in special body refrigerators in Metsamor autopsy center. In the end, we will have a smaller number of cases that won't be possible to identify.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045777.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045805.html , https://factor.am/347073.html

landmine explosions have killed and wounded dozens of Azeri civilians and soldiers

... some of whom had gone there without permission to embezzle property left by Armenian residents who had left the territories.

10 civilians and 5 soldiers have died, with another 11 civilians and 52 soldiers receiving wounds as of recently published data.

https://factor.am/347167.html

Foreign Minister of Russia and Turkey discussed the Artsakh conflict

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208669

Donbas conflict intensifies

Russian and Ukrainian troops have been exchanging fire recently, with each blaming one another for the escalation. Russian side accused Ukraine of firing at civilian houses, while Ukraine accused Russians of staging events.

Kremlin is concerned over the escalation in the "hotspot."

Ukraine is considering a purchase of Turkish Bayraktar drones while examining their use in Artsakh, wrote a Russian outlet. "The connection between Kiyev and Ankara activated in recent times."

https://www.rbc.ru/rbcfreenews/6049f07d9a79479fb78848b8 , https://factor.am/347229.html , https://factor.am/347246.html

update: MP Babajanyan's claim about harassment by pro-Russian circles

Recently, Ind. MP Babajanyan claimed that after he made the speech critical of the Russian weapon quality, he was targeted by Russia-based social media accounts which circulated his personal information.

Today he claimed it was organized by a Russian-Armenian individual named Aram Gabrielyanov, a prominent pro-Kremlin media figure in Russia. "Gabrielyanov can be pitied humanely. He was allowed to work in dubious schemes for billions not to support his prehistoric homeland and people, but for very specific purposes."

Interview: https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208663

Russia continues the delivery of humanitarian aid to Azerbaijan and Armenia

Dozens of trucks with electrical devices and construction materials were sent to Azerbaijani-controlled areas in Qarvachar.

https://factor.am/347014.html

rumors & rebuttals: HALO Trust and maps

British HALO Trust humanitarian agency, which removes landmines in Artsakh, denied rumors that they handed over Artsakh's landmine maps to Turkey to help them during the war.

The rumors were circulated by an official working in Artsakh's president's office. Artsakh's president's office clarified that the individual's statement is his own opinion and that he didn't speak on behalf of president Arayik. "HALO Trust has worked in Artsakh for many years and continues to operate today," said the president's office.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045819.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045819.html

Poll: which media outlet do you trust the most for political news?

Respondents could choose 3 media outlets. Here are the first-choice results:

None 33%

Public TV 16% (pro-govt)

Shant 10%

Armenia TV 9% (formerly ex-regime, now unclear)

Other 8%

Azatutyun 8% (pro-west, usually anti-ex-regime)

ArmNews 6% (ex-regime, HHK)

Yerkir Media 1% (ex-regime, ARF)

TV5 1% (ex-regime, Kocharyan camp)

news.am 1% (allegedly pro-ex-regime)

Kentron TV 1% (ex-regime, BHK)

H2 <1% (ex-regime, Kocharyan camp)

Aurora <1%

The survey by IRI agency:

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208627

poll: snap elections, most trusted institues, etc.

Among the institutes, the army continues to have the highest 73% favorable rating. 60% for HR Ombudsman office.

Pashinyan office: 55% favorable & 43% negative opinion.

Ministries, political parties, and the judicial branch had a low favorable rating.

55% want snap elections. 42% are against it. Yerevan residents were more likely to want it.

52% want Pashinyan to be the one to organize elections. 37% want it to happen after he leaves.

If the elections were held today, whom would you vote for: None 42%. Ruling party 33%. Don't know 12%. The former regime parties and individuals altogether would receive 8% (includes BHK 3%, Kocharyan 2%, HHK 1%, ARF 1%, etc.). Non-former-regime opposition LHK <1% (press F).

Which political party would you NEVER vote for? 25% HHK, 17% BHK, 14% ruling QP, 11% there is no party I will never vote for, 10% Dashnak, 8% LHK, 6% Manukyan's 17 parties, etc.

Do you see a future for your family in Armenia? 73% yes, 26% no (with 15% of them saying firmly no)

The level of optimism and pessimism: 49% optimistic, 49% pessimistic

Generally speaking, is Armenia heading in the right or wrong direction?: 31% right, 45% wrong, 24% don't know.

Survey by IRI agency amond 1510 adults in mid-February. Full:

https://www.civilnet.am/news/545534/հայաստանցիների-55-տոկոսը-կողմ-է-արտահերթ-ընտրություններին․-հարցում/ , https://www.civilnet.am/news/545682/հայաստանցիների-համար-լղ-հարցը-առաջնահերթ-չէ-մեծամասնությունն-իր-ապագան-տեսնում-է-հայաստանում․-iri-ի-հարցման-արդյունքները/ , https://www.civilnet.am/news/545682/հայաստանցիների-համար-լղ-հարցը-առաջնահերթ-չէ-մեծամասնությունն-իր-ապագան-տեսնում-է-հայաստանում․-iri-ի-հարցման-արդյունքները/

economic competition committee examined fuel prices

... and found that the recent price increase was a result of natural events tied to the global price increase, inflation, etc.

86% of the fuel price goes towards buying the product, 1% to transport it to Armenia, 10% taxes, etc.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045775.html

COVID stats

4285 tested. 749 infected. 182 healed. 2 deaths. 6772 active, from whom 901 are in hospitals. 9 hospitals currently treat patients. There are 100 available beds but the number can expand with demand.

During the government session, calls were made to wear masks and respect safety rules again. "If the daily infections remain above 700, we might have to re-introduce some restrictions."

There was a 91% rise in infections in the past 2 weeks. The infection rate is 1.3. That means if no action is taken, additional 3,700 infections will occur within the next week.

Infections sharply increased among children: 6-8yo 3.3x. 3-5yo 1.2x. 6-17yo 1.4x.

The Healthcare Ministry reminds everyone to wash the hands frequently, keep a 1.5m distance from others, and wear a mask. "Masks do help. Last year when the masks became mandatory, exactly two hidden periods later the infections dropped by 2.8x."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045733.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045740.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045773.html , https://factor.am/347103.html , https://factor.am/347117.html

vaccination campaign expands

Medical workers are receiving Russian Sputnik-5 vaccines now; they are part of the high-risk group. The vaccination is optional. No post-vaccine complications have been recorded so far. 2,000 vaccines were donated by Russia earlier this year.

The process to obtain more vaccines through COVAX and direct negotiations continue.

Those who have already been infected can also receive vaccines but others with chronic illnesses will be prioritized.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045769.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045776.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045788.html

COVID economy: holiday sales increase by 19%

3% more sales receipts were printed, and 19% more money was spent on March 8th holiday this year compared to 2020.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208693

quake in Iran is felt in southern Armenia

A 4M quake struck Iran's northern Khoy city. It was felt in Armenia's southern settlements at a 2-3pt strength.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045750.html

tribute to the victims of 2011 Japan earthquake

Armenian officials and Japanese ambassador Yamada visited Spitak Central Park to lay flowers to the victims of the Japanese quake and tsunami. A new cross-stone was installed in their memory. Yamada thanked Armenia for the support during the quake.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208689

Mashtots Foundation for the Development of Armenian Culture will hold miniature painting courses for adults

Instructors will work with groups of 10 for a period of a month.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208655

you can buy a cheap phone and accessories at the post office now

HayPost needs extra cash so they are selling phones and accessories in some branches. It's part of the plan to expand services in general and provide financial services besides handling packages.

Apparently, Xiaomi and Poco sell like hot cakes in Armenia. They plan to sell iPhones and Samsung soon.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045772.html

anti-corruption: high-ranking Meghri customs agents are caught with bribery

NSS says: the head of the Meghri customs department colluded with fellow agents between 2020-2021 to accept bribes from businesses in exchange for falsifying import-related documents in their favor. Vehicle oil was imported without paying border taxes.

Details: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=448290146484006 , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045726.html

video: discussions about the upcoming electoral code reforms

An hour-long discussion was held between MPs and experts. The Ruling and opposition parties, joined by civil society, have been working on major electoral reforms. Campaign finance, transparency, voting, party ideology instead of an individual, etc.

https://youtu.be/2wDF675TJjU , https://youtu.be/JEKYDuhdyyo , https://youtu.be/98UCaQscJdg , https://youtu.be/Ep4n4mFJ2fs , https://youtu.be/K4VT7piQM1k

high-tech investment / company added to free trade zone

The government decided to add the EngineProject company in the ECOS free trade zone for 5 years. It's in the field of producing devices for high-tech and telecom firms.

The inclusion will exempt them from certain taxation to incentivize investments. The ֏112M project will create 11 jobs with an avg ֏560K/mo salary.

The ECOS trade zone in Hrazdan currently houses 8 companies. "It's convenient for service providers. 4 companies have already applied this year," said Economy Minister.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045741.html , https://armenpress.am/eng/news/951452.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045768.html , https://factor.am/347044.html

Armenian workforce productivity is very low at $6/hour

Pashinyan during govt session: I received a report about productivity, which shows the $ value produced by the average employee per hour. Not only are we way far behind developed countries, but also from developing countries, including in the EAEU trade bloc.

The term "productivity" has to be made more accessible to the public and businesses. It hasn't always been part of the economy. Today, our businesses take into account productivity while drafting their annual plans and calculating revenues.

I recently spoke with a supermarket owner who said their finances were in poor shape and they didn't know why. They hired a foreign analyst to examine. The latter asked to present the Productivity indicator, but the business owner didn't even know what it was. The introduction of the productivity score placed the finances on a recovery path.

The average productivity in Armenia is $6/hour. EAEU $11. Developed countries $43. Some countries $100.

Economy Minister Qerobyan: we are preparing several programs to improve productivity. Medium and large businesses will receive consultations and technological aid to boost productivity.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045751.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045768.html , https://youtu.be/aPSEjEeVRR4

tax reforms: VAT refunds will be given every month / government to pay back what it owes

Pashinyan: when a company exports a product, they receive a VAT refund. As of early-2018 law, the refunds were issued only once every 6 months. As a result of the slow pace, the government had accumulated ֏100B in debt to businesses.

Recently we launched a process to return the funds we owe, followed by a phase to expedite the VAT payments to once every 3 months instead of 6. Now, we're making it once a month. So, the VAT issue, which has existed for decades, is finally being resolved, as we promised.

Economy Ministry: the bill will return the VAT to businesses on a monthly basis instead of quarterly. It applies to VAT they paid on borders and internally. This way, businesses will have faster access to the funds, and faster inject them back into the economy. The VAT return process is simplified for the sum under ֏40M/month.

We issued ֏175b in refunds in 2019, and ֏139b in 2020. The refunds issued during the first 2 months of 2021 are greater than during the pre-pandemic 2020 period.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045743.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045768.html ,

IRS could possibly eliminate border VAT. IRS received a suggestion and is holding discussions about the possible elimination of border VAT to incentivize businesses. If approved, businesses will not pay VAT at the border during the customs clearance of goods.

IRS chief said this can only happen if the general tax discipline improves.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045747.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045768.html

provincial governors join the government sessions

From now on, the governors can attend government sessions. "As our partners get acquainted with the environment, we will make their participation more active and effective in the future. I am glad to see you, gentlemen," said Pashinyan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045744.html

residents of a damaged building will receive new houses

The government authorized the construction company GM Construction to invest in a social project on 23/1 Shinarar St. The land is issued to build an 18-story apartment building with 2 underground floors.

There is a nearby 60-year-old apartment building that's severely damaged and has cracks. The residents expressed fears that it could collapse. The residents will be moved to the new building once its construction is complete.

The residents of the nearby building can choose between a free apartment and cash. The company also promised to plant vegetation on the nearby land.

There are 600 buildings in Armenia that are subject to destruction. 95 of them are extremely dangerous to live in. The government hopes to use this method to solve similar issues in provinces.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045768.html

Netherlands ambassador Nico Schermers:

I welcome the establishment of an embassy in Armenia; it'll be ready once a few technical issues are solved. It'll make the cooperation more efficient.

Armenia has great potential in high tech and tourism. We're already working with the government with reforms in cadastre and agriculture.

We'll help with strengthening democracy and rule of law, which will also help increase direct foreign investments.

(He took a trip to Tsakhkadzor and Garni and liked them.)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045678.html

renovation of Armenian kindergarten in Jerusalem uncovers archeological materials

They found a 12th-century typical Armenian cross-stone (khachqar), with "Տեր Հիսուս, հիշիր" written on it (language isn't specified). A Byzantine-era mosaic and coins were also found.

Photos: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045816.html

Youri Djorkaeff visits Armenia

World soccer champion French-Armenian Djorkaeff is serving as the head of a FIFA-linked foundation. He met the Armenian Soccer Federation chief today to discuss the development of the sport.

Video: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=434858937595238

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045821.html

today in history

106: a Chinese scientist invents bamboo paper

1302: Romeo and Juliet marry

1931: circulation of Bible is banned in USSR

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045706.html

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

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

disclaimer

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


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