2021 March 26

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

Mar/26/2021: (1) March 1st: Constitutional Court strikes down Article 300.1. Prosecutors waiting for full verdict. Kocharyan could face other charges (2) $207M infrastructure & housing for Artsakh (3) Ongoing projects: unified transport in Armenia, energy sector, roads, etc. (4) other news
by ar_david_hh


Your 11-minute Friday report in 2707 words.

March 1st: Constitutional Court strikes down Article 300.1 of Criminal Code

A major victory for Robert Kocharyan and his fellow March 1st co-defendants. The Court found that the law is invalid. "Beginning in 2009 the Article 300.1 has been invalid," said the defense lawyer.

That's the law about "usurping power" that the former regime amended back in 2009. At the time, the Venice Commission didn't find a problem with the amendment. It's unclear what has changed since then.

Kocharyan's lawyer said the prosecutors will have to drop the 300.1 charges after today's verdict.

March 1st murder victims' lawyer Seda Safaryan says she plans to take the case to the European court, saying "the Constitutional Court went outside the law to respect Kocharyan's rights while ignoring the rights of March 1st victims." She said the felony trial shouldn't be suspended because 300.1 wasn't the only law that Kocharyan is accused of violating. "There are charges related to criminal cooperation. This felony case has 85 volumes."

A legal expert says it's too early to predict what will happen next without reading the full verdict. The nature of the charges could be changed or entirely dropped. One of the judges wrote an opinion piece regarding the verdict; details will be available later.

The prosecutors said they will make an announcement after receiving the full verdict text. The defendants are also facing bribery charges which are unrelated to the Constitutional Court verdict.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047270.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047272.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047277.html , https://factor.am/352823.html , https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2009)009-e , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/209960

Pashinyan held a conversation with Putin

They discuss Artsakh, energy sector cooperation, and COVID.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047286.html

former presidents of Armenia and Artsakh gathered for a meeting

LTP, Kocharyan, Serj, Arkadiy, and Bako met to discuss Artsakh.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047237.html

police arrested opposition figure / damaged documents

One of Vazgen Manukyan's allies Aram Harutyunyan was earlier charged with inciting physical violence against the government officials. Today the police arrested and accused him of intentionally damaging certain documents.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047271.html

Vazgen Manukyan feels disappointed over the opposition's performance

Manukyan: the elections will not solve the current political crisis. Armenia is not ready for elections under these conditions. I wouldn't say [presumably his ally BHK] are enthusiastic about elections, but seeing that the previous struggle [street rallies] did not change the government, they are attempting to take this route [elections].

[Context: Manukyan wants the opposition to become the government for a year before holding elections.]

Manukyan continues: don't like me as the opposition's candidate? Let's change the candidate. Don't like waiting for a year before elections? Let's reduce or increase the time. The opposition 17 parties aren't functioning efficiently? Let's change the plans.

I'm disappointed in myself and the opposition. We could have worked more efficiently. The public is disappointed in the opposition. They expect the opposition to solve the problem. On the other hand, many people stay home and expect others to solve problems. This doesn't justify the opposition's failures.

(յահհհհհհհ, էս որ մի մոծակնա երեկ գիշերը կծել Վազգենին?)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047290.html

LHK is headed for an electoral victory

... believes LHK MP Gorgisyan, citing the recent public surveys showing that although the ruling party would receive the highest 30% votes, around half of all respondents did not select a party, leaving it up for grabs. LHK hopes to win them over.

LHK doesn't want the much-criticized Rating electoral system to be replaced with a "closed" Proportional system (no specific list of MP candidates) as it has been proposed. Instead, they want an "open" Proportional (specific candidate runs for a seat, making an individual person's popularity more important).

In the Closed version (supported by the ruling party and others), the emphasis is on the party and its ideology/plans, while in the Open version people have a say on which exact candidates get chosen.

https://factor.am/352588.html

Azeri soldiers throw stones at a vehicle in Artsakh / Driver receives apology, compensation

The incident happened on the road leading to Karmir Shuka, in the south. Military vehicles with Azeri soldiers were being accompanied by Russian peacekeepers when they decided to throw stones at an Armenian car.

The driver Lendrush and another Armenian driver blocked the road and forced the soldiers to pull over. Lendrush demanded an explanation from the commander of Azeri troops.

The Russian and Azeri commanders exited their vehicles. The Azeri commander took photos of the damaged vehicle and promised to submit it to higher-ups, while the Russian commander issued an apology and promised compensation for the cracked windshield after taking the driver's details.

The driver then contacted the Artsakh police, which contacted the head of Russian peacekeepers Rustam Muradov, who is investigating the incident. "The issue is not only to compensate for the damage but also to prevent such incidents in the future," said the peacekeepers.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047197.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047245.html

POWs

Russian ambassador Kopyrkin: the return of POWs is one of the priorities of the Russian government, and everything is being done to resolve the situation. We support the all-for-all swap process.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047241.html

Israeli-Armenians protest the weapon sales to Azerbaijan

Armenians in Tel Aviv held a picket to protest drone and missile sales.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047258.html

Armenian MFA urges UNESCO and PACE to intervene and prevent the destruction of Armenian cultural sites in occupied territories

Evidence emerged that Azerbaijan destroyed St. Astvatsatsin church in Mekhakavan and St. Mkrtich church in Shushi.

https://factor.am/352765.html

US State Department demands UNESCO to visit Artsakh

... to assess the situation around cultural and historical sites.

https://factor.am/352640.html

US State Department criticized Azerbaijani authorities' decision...

... to revoke Women Of Courage prize winner and lawyer Shahla Humbatova's license. "We call for the immediate resumption of her license. We will continue to be by her side."

https://factor.am/352846.html

$208 million infrastructure and housing programs in Artsakh / All Armenia Fund + taxpayers

Pashinyan and Artsakh president Arayik held a government session together, to discuss aid for Artsakh.

Pashinyan: this is the second day we're holding a session with Arayik's presence. We decided to invest $208M (֏110B) for housing and infrastructure development in Artsakh.

It'll be funded by the All Armenia Fund (Himnadram.org) and the government. Himnadram pays ֏58B while the government ֏52B.

Arayik: this decision will be of key importance in the further development of Artsakh and the settlement of humanitarian issues. There is a plan to build 4,000 houses; we have some progress. There will be a plan for additional 2,000 houses soon.

https://youtu.be/jycY2aI2VA8 , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047213.html

Deputy PM Avinyan holds a conversation with diasporan donors

He thanked the US-Canadian group of doctors for the ongoing aid. "In difficult times, the Diaspora is by the side of the homeland. Both material and psychological support of the Diaspora was important for us, for which I would like to thank each of you."

They discussed the customs rules to address import-related confusion. "We amended the customs law during the war to simplify the import and registration of humanitarian aid. More recently, we contacted ambassadors to various states with instructions on how to avoid complications." A tutorial video will be posted on the govt website.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047219.html

re: police salary will almost double for the new police forces

The police will pay up to twice as much in salaries to new police officers who are currently studying in the academy. The change does not affect the old/existing police forces.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047264.html

the $211M Azerbaijan-Armenia bank transaction story keeps circulating

To prove that Nikol Pashinyan is a traitor who took a bribe from Aliyev to give away the lands, members of the former regime cited a report by a World Bank agency which relied on refugee/IDP information to [incorrectly] assume that $211M worth bank transfers must have been made from Azerbaijan to Armenia in 2018, after Pashinyan came to power. "We told you he took bribes."

Central Bank debunked the claim on February 9th and explained where that number came from.

LHK MP Yeghiazaryan brought up the same story today (minus Nikol traitor). Prosecutors eventually decided to investigate the $211M story.

https://factor.am/352664.html , https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/lgctgv/feb92021_1_hemp_legalization_what_to_expect_2/

BHK will ask Venice Commission to review defamation penalty increase

On Wednesday, the ruling party voted to increase the upper limit of the defamation penalty from $3,800 to $11,300. The government argued against it, saying it could be a pressure on the media and stifle free speech by discouraging reports.

The bill's author argued the change is necessary to combat widespread defamation and misinformation, and that the maximum penalty is not necessary what judges choose as punishment, with the average punishment currently being only ~$380.

BHK MP Naira Zohrabyan also believes the bill is too harsh and has asked the Venice Commission and PACE to review the change.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047208.html

Tavush governor files lawsuit against opposition figure over border rumors "which resulted in the suspension of a $4M investment project"

Politicians and outlets representing the former regime circulated information earlier, claiming that part of Tavush villages will be given to Azerbaijan. The border demarcation rumor was denied by local authorities and residents.

Tavush governor Chobanyan today: the rumors around borders are having negative consequences on investments. A $4M worth investment in a cattle and poultry business was suspended as a result. We are working on resuming it.

We are suing former Premier Hrant Bagratyan (Vazgen Manukyan camp) because his Facebook posts caused these losses. If I am an investor and someone falsely claims that those areas are ceded to the enemy, moreover, someone falsely claims that there are already Azeris in those areas, what am I supposed to do as an investor? //

Hrant Bagratyan denied wrongdoing, saying he was sharing other people's concerns.

https://factor.am/352631.html , https://youtu.be/iMHx5BQ_ulI

Tavush province expects ֏44B in investments this year

said governor Hayk Chobayan. "Mainly for agriculture, tourism, and industry."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047223.html

stats: infrastructure programs, unified transport network, roads, energy programs

Pashinyan & Infrastructure Minister: most of our capital expenditures are done by the Infrastructure Ministry. The programs that are co-subsidized by local settlements are the best way to develop provinces evenly:

subsidy volumes

2018-2020: 1192 programs worth ֏45.7B

2020: 580 programs worth ֏26.2B

2021: 800 programs submitted

water networks

The renovation of 304km water networks in 2020-2021 will significantly improve irrigation in Kotayk, Aragatsotn, Armavir, and Ararat provinces.

The construction of the Vedi water reservoir has begun, while the Kaspi reservoir is expected soon.

roads

2019: 250km roads rebuilt as part of subsidies

2020: 400km federal + 150km inner-settlement roads

The renovation of 9 roads (12km) and 2 parks was complete in Gyumri, with another 23 roads to be renovated soon. The new roads should help activate the city.

unified public transport

We mapped and developed all the routes as part of the plan to create a unified transport network across Armenia. An auction for Armavir's transport network was launched this month. Similar auctions will be held elsewhere to solve transport communication problems in provinces.

energy sector

$65M (+$100M by 2023) was invested for nuclear plant renovation.

€27M invested in the construction of the third Armenia-Iran electric grid network.

The €188M worth Caucasus Power Transmission network program was resumed.

The construction of a new power grid for Hakhtanak, Ashnak, and Lalvar stations was finished; a $28M investment.

The construction of a 250MW thermal power plant in Yerevan will finish this year. The construction continues for the 55MW Masrik-1 solar power farm. The electricity wholesale market management program was tested on February 1.

seismic protection

46 schools will be rebuilt or renovated. 19 are in process.

garbage collection

€11M construction of Kotayk-Gegharquniq landfill has begun. It'll be ready next year.

enlarged settlements

The process of smaller settlements merging into a larger municipality continues and will finish in 2022. There are 54 unified settlements; another 19 expected.

housing for refugees

Families who fled Azerbaijan in the 80s-90s received 183 housing certificates worth ֏2.4B

From the financial standpoint, the work done in 2019-2020 was as much as in 2006-2019.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047282.html

Tags: #infrastructure #investments

The government will work directly with small and medium-sized businesses

... so that ordinary people have more access to capital and knowledge, so that money will not be the biggest obstacle for them to do business, said Economy Minister Qerobyan during an annual meeting with companies.

He said the government has a number of programs aimed at improving the investment climate and increasing economic activity in rural communities.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047220.html

developing business in Syunik border villages

Deputy Mayor of Goris says they held talks with nearby Syunik village residents to assess their needs and create business ideas. They attempt to find investors and donors to help establish orchards, beekeeping, cow breeding, tourism, and other businesses.

The development of local residents' skills is also on the agenda. The discussions took place in Nerqin Kndzoresk, Vorotan, Akner, and other border villages.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047142.html

Economy Minister expects tourism to grow by 319% this year

Qerobyan: You can see tourists on the streets already. Many Iranians have arrived. The hotel bookings have increased. We will enter a normal pace in May. +319% vs 2020, and -25% vs 2019.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047207.html

update: Armenian tourism agencies visit Moscow for MITT Tourism Expo

Last week, 20 Armenian tourism agencies went to Moscow to participate in MITT tourism expo, the largest in the post-Soviet world. The Armenian delegation says the interest was high.

Tourism official Arevshatyan: we met Russian government representatives to discuss air flight resumption.

Travel agent Ayvazyan: we went there with little expectations. At first, we thought the emphasis would be on the general image of Armenia, but the interest in the Armenian booth was so high that it changed our perception.

Representatives from almost all Russian regions showed interest. We kept receiving inquiries all the way until our departure. I think we'll succeed. There was interest for individuals, groups, and extreme tourism.

Travel Agent Tanashyan: our agency is surprised by the level of interest. A large number of meetings. Many weren't aware that Armenia is mostly open for tourists. Our main task was raising awareness.

Travel agent Hakobyan: the main issue concerning Russian tourists was the airline ticket prices. Before COVID you could buy a two-way ticket for ֏70,000. It's expensive now because the flight volumes haven't recovered.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047236.html

COVID stats

5525 tested. 1005 infected. 433 healed. 18 deaths. 13976 active.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047204.html

ArmHighTech-2021 military expo in Hamalir Center has been postponed to 2022 because of worsening pandemic

https//www.civilnet.am/news/574824/արմհայթեք-2021-սպառազինության-ցուցահանդեսը-կանցկացվի-2022-ին/

COVID vaccines

The Russian ambassador Kopyrkin said they are close to shipping larger quantities of Sputnik-5 vaccines to Armenia. "[The shipment] is approaching the stage of practical implementation."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047250.html

Construction University will train railway builders and operators

Armenian National University of Architecture and Construction and the Russian-owned South Caucasus Railways signed a memorandum. The former will train experts to build and operate railways for the Armenian railways.

Among the attendees were the Education Ministry and the Russian ambassador. "We must be able to use this scientific potential not only in Armenia but also to export it to CIS countries and the Middle East," said Education Ministry.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047269.html

re: boosting preschool attendance to 70% by 2023

The government has a plan to increase preschool attendance because they believe it improves the future development of the child. They are increasing financing for rural settlements that don't have dedicated facilities for preschools. Some rural houses and other buildings are expected to be "converted".

Education Ministry: 70% of children over the age of 3 should attend preschools by 2023. Only 31% attended one in 2018.

Reasons for not attending: mother is unemployed 39%, there are no preschools 11%, preschools are expensive or it's closed 2%.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047255.html

2022 World Cup soccer qualification matches

Armenia is in the J Group with Jermany, Iceland, Romania, Lichtenstein, Macedonia

Lichtenstein 0:1 Armenia

Germany 3:0 Iceland

Romania 3:2 Macedonia

Armenia vs Iceland - March 28

Armenia vs Romania - March 31

Goal video: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047183.html

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047184.html

top-5 bestseller children's books in February

5) Շաղգամը, by Atabek Khnkoyan

4) Ով է ապրում տնակում, by Vladimir Suteev.

3) Harry & Megan and the Philosopher's Stone, by JK Rowling

2) Wolf and the Seven Lambs

1) Բոքոնիկը (kolobok)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046912.html

today in history

1934: UK implements driving tests

1945: US troops invade Iwo Jima Island

1947: USSR abolishes death penalty (temporarily)

1995: Schengen visa

1999: Michigan Court reads a guilty verdict for Dr. Death Kevorkian over euthanasia.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047176.html

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/mdx1c7/mar262021_1_march_1st_constitutional_court/

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