2021 March 5

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

Mar/5/2021 news wrap-up: (1) The GCoS who went missing (2) Freedom House & Heritage Index: Armenia improved economic & political freedoms, anti-corruption, despite 2020 events (3) The 2016 war (4) EAEU "kicks" Turkey (5) BHK has the ball (6) Students to deduct edu. fees from taxes (7) Metro stats
by ar_david_hh


Your 11-minute Friday report in 2907 words.

re: the disappearance of Azeri General Chief of Staff Najmeddin Sadykov

We learned during and after the war that "pro-Russian" general Sadykov was sidelined before and during the war after expressing opposition to the Turkish takeover of the Azeri army. He "disappeared" afterward, with his biography page being removed from the army website.

The complaints against Sadykov existed long before the 2020 war, but it reached a peak after Azerbaijan sustained heavy losses while attempting to capture Mt. Murov in Artsakh's north-central section. Sadykov was blamed for the failures.

He was also blamed for pressuring the leaders to launch the attack from the center-east instead of south. In center-east, "Armenians had built trenches and tunnels for years, making it more difficult for attackers," said his critics.

After the war, the Azeri officials claimed he had to undergo heart surgery abroad. There were unverified reports of him hiding in Russia, and his relatives being tortured in southern Russia to convince him to confess to treason.

https://eurasianet.org/the-mystery-of-azerbaijans-missing-army-chief

tensions are still high

Ilham Aliyev continues to insist that the Artsakh conflict has been resolved. The Armenian and international side say Artsakh's legal status is yet to be determined. Armenian MFA also criticized Aliyev for his usual "Armenia is historical Azerbaijan" rhetoric.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045285.html

HR Ombudsman Tatoyan spoke about the two dozen Syunik houses that went under Azeri control for being located in Artsakh's Qashatagh region, noting that there is an international practice that takes into account state property registration documents while settling border disputes. He hopes to return the houses under the Armenian owners' possession.

Tatoyan does not believe that Armenia and Azerbaijan are ready yet to peacefully co-exist, because of Armenophobia in Azerbaijan, POW, and border issues. Tatoyan said he supports the normalization of relations.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045269.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045274.html

Burbank, California city council officially recognizes the Artsakh Republic

...unanimously. ANCA has thanked the city council, Rep. Adam Schiff, CA Sen. Anthony Portantino, and city residents for their support.

https://factor.am/345053.html

documentary: 1988 ethnic cleansings of Armenians in Kirovabad (aka Gandzak, aka Ganja)

https://youtu.be/QJW-on5wuFg

German MP loses immunity amid accusations of taking a bribe from Azerbaijan

Bundestag voted to strip immunity from MP Axel Fischer from the ruling party to allow law enforcement to raid his properties for evidence. The law enforcement raided 6 officers.

Fischer wasn't the only MP implicated in the Azeri bribery scandal, which was extensively covered by Deutsche Welle and Transparency International. In 2019, other MPs received penalties for hiding their incomes from Azerbaijan.

Full: https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208198

Vatican praised Russia for its role in achieving a ceasefire

... and added, "We would like to see more progress in resolving frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet territories."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045327.html

re: April 2016 war investigative report / "2020 was 2016's continuation"

After Armenia lost key positions near northern Talish and large pieces of land in the southern Horadiz during the 2016 April war, critics argued that not enough independent efforts were made to investigate learn from mistakes.

After the revolution, the Parliament created a commission to question political-military leadership to learn details. The investigation was headed by Parliamentary Security Commission chief Andranik Kocharyan. The report was only recently finalized and given to the Parliament president, who is yet to publish it.

Investigative Commission chief Andranik Kocharyan: I will give a speech about the 2016 war during the next Parliamentary session. The 44-day war in 2020 was the continuation of the 4-day war in 2016, but on a much larger scale.

When you read the investigative report, you will realize that it would have been much better if the General Chief of Staff of Armed Forces had access to and examined information sooner, before this war.

The military leadership themselves must launch an investigation over the 2020 war. We need a clear understanding now because we are planning major army reforms. We have at least 5 years of peace. We must restore our capabilities and be prepared for the future. We should have learned after the 1994 war that future wars will feature new types of weapons.

The topic of POWs is very sensitive. There shouldn't be any internal obstacles in Armenia [opposition using it as a tool against Pashinyan] that can encourage Azerbaijan to delay the process. We must apply every effort for their return, including personal connections. Arthur Vanetsyan wasn't being honest when he said he could secure the POW return within a few days if he came to power. This issue cannot be resolved in a few days. We still have unresolved issues dating back to the 1990s war. Let Vanetsyan use those connections now, if he has any. Is he trying to sell the sell people in exchange for power?

More: https://youtu.be/RZRnwgStNIo?t=108

search operations

The crews discovered two bodies near Martakert's military base. No discoveries in the south.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045232.html

POWs

A group of POW family members held a picket in Shirak governor's office. They want to know when their relatives will return. They want a meeting with Pashinyan. Their relatives were captured after the main war events, near Khtsaberd, in the narrow strip of land west of the Shushi-Hadrut corridor.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045267.html

Prominent Lithuanian movie producer Kestutis Drazdauskas joined the international calls for Azerbaijan to expedite the POW swap. He published a list co-signed by other prominent culture figures.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045238.html

a POW who recently returned will receive a new home

Mrs. Anichka lives in a mini-trailer (վագոն-տնակ). She recently returned after 120 days in captivity. MP Aren Mkrtchyan contacted the Armenian diaspora in Germany, and Hamburg's Armenian community president Serj Angelyan decided to build a new house for Anichka. "It'll have insulated walls and communication cables." The architect will visit the area tomorrow.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208294

economic freedom index improved in Armenia

Heritage Foundation's annual 2021 report has placed Armenia 2 positions higher. The economy is Mostly Free with 71.9 out of 100 points.

2018: 44

2019: 47

2020: 34

2021: 32

Singapore ¹st, Georgia 12, Armenia 32, Kazakhstan 34, Azerbaijan 38, Russia 92, Belarus 95.

In the EAEU trade bloc, only Armenia and Kazakhstan achieved a Mostly Free score.

The score takes into account laws to protect business and property, competition, tax laws, labor laws, etc.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045251.html , https://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

Freedom House index: Armenia improved political rights and civil liberties

Armenia improved its score by 2 points in the Freedom House report, going from 53 to 55. Two positive tendencies were observed:

First. Progress in protecting private property. Can residents exercise personal freedom and launch a business without the government's unnecessary intervention? The index recorded an improvement post-2018 revolution because the former-regime-linked oligarchs haven't been able to pressure competitors anymore.

The report says small businesses would often be pressured by the former regime and be forced to pay bribes. This has become rarer after 2018. "Armenian legislation adequately protects property rights, despite the fact that officials have not always preserved it in the past," the organization states.

Second. Improvement in political rights. Are the anti-corruption guarantees against officials strong and effective? The score improved by a point here, thanks to legislative reforms relating to anti-corruption and economic crimes.

The report says the Pashinyan administration scored stable progress in fighting crimes committed in the past. It notes a 2020 law [likely about asset forfeiture] that gives prosecutors broader rights to investigate corruption cases.

The report welcomes the decision to create Anti-Corruption Commission. It is scheduled to operate this year, along with a new Anti-Corruption Court.

The ratings haven't changed in other categories despite some positive and negative tendencies. Some of those tendencies:

The report believes the Pashinyan administration has taken steps to improve information's availability to the public by more frequent communication "but it faced criticism during the war for not disclosing full details about deaths and not informing about the November 9th agreement before signing it."

"Violence against journalists has reduced after 2018, but 6 cases were recorded [during/after the 2020 war]". "Initially, the govt used a gag law against the media during the 2020 pandemic, but decided to drop it after complaints."

https://www.amerikayidzayn.com/a/5802161.html

https://factor.am/345484.html

EAEU trade bloc removes Turkey from the tariff privilege list

Armenian delegation offered to remove Turkey from the list of countries eligible for tariff privileges. The bloc approved the offer. A few other countries will also be removed from the list, which is meant for countries that have poor economies. "This can be a major hit for the Turkish economy," said QP MP. "This will raise border tariffs for Turkish products by 25%."

The MP is surprised that the EAEU bloc accepted the offer to remove Turkey. "We thought Kazakhstan would argue against, but there was a unanimous approval by the member-states."

Armenia's offer to remove Turkey was political and economic in nature.

More: https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208273

https://factor.am/345285.html , https://en.armradio.am/2020/10/22/eec-to-discuss-removing-turkey-from-list-of-countries-using-eaeu-tariff-privileges-system/

group of ambassadors and diplomats receive awards for their duties

Vigen Chitechyan was awarded the Order of Merit for Services to the Motherland for his diplomatic activity. The ambassador to France Hasmik Tolmajyan and few other diplomats were "promoted".

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045259.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045256.html

group of soldiers receive awards posthumously

Combat Cross and other medals were issued posthumously to dozens of soldiers, from Private to Major, for their roles in the war.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045262.html

female officers

Defense Minister Vagharshak met a group of female military academy students and 2020 war participants to issue certificates and gifts, ahead of March 8. The MOD stressed the importance of women in the armed forces and praised their readiness to serve the homeland.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208274

rumors & rebuttals: Onik on Twitter & Lars trucks

GCoS chief Onik Gasparyan warned about fake Facebook and Twitter accounts that use his name. He urged law enforcement to take action against them.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045329.html

Armenian trucks have to pass through Georgia's Lars to reach the Russian market. They "compete" against foreign drivers. Every now and then there are complaints of ethnic discrimination. Armenia's Lars envoy denied rumors that Armenian drivers were discriminated today. "There is heavy truck traffic but it's shrinking. Same treatment for all nationalities."

By the way, Georgia and Russia are negotiating to build an alternative road with tunnels.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045316.html

BHK hasn't decided yet whether to accept Pashinyan's snap elections offer

Pashinyan offered Parliamentary opposition and ruling parties to sign an agreement that neither party will nominate a Prime Minister's candidate if Pashinyan resigns. This way, no one would be elected, and snap elections would be held if Pashinyan resigned.

Both opposition parties refused the offer initially, but yesterday LHK said they are open to it. Today, BHK said they haven't held a party vote to decide yet.

Pashinyan invited BHK leader Tsarukyan to talk. BHK said Tsarukyan will meet him only after the party gathers an internal meeting, which hasn't taken place yet. "We want snap elections. The question is when and under what conditions," said a BHK MP.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045247.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045255.html , https://factor.am/345104.html

funeral services in front of politicians' homes

Ruling party MPs condemned any pressure on opposition politicians in the form of activists placing flowers in front of politicians' homes, noting that this practice began in 2008 when "today's opposition forces organized a mock funeral in front of Levon Ter-Petrosyan's home", who at the time was challenging the former regime in presidential elections.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045268.html , https://youtu.be/8hgjEoWOCks

court frees Ara Saghatelyan before his trial

HHK's Parliamentary Chief of Staff Ara Saghatelyan was among a few opposition figures who were recently charged with inciting riots and violence with the use of a fake Facebook account. Today, the Appeals court found that his arrest was unreasonable, and freed him.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045308.html

correction: Cassations Court nominees & Supreme Court president

The president of the Supreme Court was grilled by the Parliament yesterday over his alleged anti-Pashinyan political statement. I wrote that it was during a nomination hearing to appoint "Supreme Court" judges, while in reality, it was for "Cassations Court" judges. The Parliament refused to appoint Cassations Court judges as a sign of protest to the Supreme Court president.

re: students can write-off education expenditures as deductibles while filing taxes

A law was passed last year to encourage the younger generation to work while attending universities. Masters, Postgraduate and օրդինատուրա students, who are citizens, can receive compensation for education fees by deducting them from income taxes.

The law applies to education years beginning in Sep/1/2020. Students have 3 months to apply after each season. IRS shared a video on how it's done and what documents are necessary.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045276.html , https://youtu.be/f_gniAQ718U

Fitch gives Yerevan B+ Outlook Stable rating

The rating was "returned", after apparently downgrading it earlier, possibly due to the pandemic. The report says COVID is still affecting finances negatively.

It is noted that Yerevan exercises balanced control over expenditures, as a result of which the dynamics of expenditures almost coincide with the dynamics of revenues.

In 2019, 42% of expenditures were on public education, 22% on the utility sector.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045330.html , https://www.fitchratings.com/research/international-public-finance/fitch-rates-armenian-city-of-yerevan-b-outlook-stable-04-03-2021

Yerevan Metro publishes ridership stats

The passenger flow dropped from 21 to 11 million during the pandemic year. For the first time in its history, the Metro stopped its operation between April 1st to May 17th. "Nowadays, all wagons are sanitized by special crews and are equipped with sanitizers."

The passenger flow is gradually recovering with a daily 50-55K ridership.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045282.html

Yerevan Metro's schedule

Some riders complained about the trains being late recently. A representative said safety measures and occasional mechanical issues can result in delays. "The waiting time depends on the number of trains active in the line. Today, the gap is 6.5 minutes. Additional trains are added in the morning and evening peak times."

https://factor.am/345171.html

Yerevan Metro's new station

Talks began in 2019 about opening a new Metro station on a newly-built bridge in Kievyan gorge. After negotiations with private investors, the city decided to use public funds instead. Metro official says the discussions over the new Ajapnyak station are still ongoing.

Metro currently has 10 stations, 12km length, 45 wagons.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045287.html

Yerevan Metro's history

Yerevan was facing transportation issues in the 1960s. The administration decided to build an underground light rail, explained by a Redditor here, before deciding to build a real metro instead. The permit was issued in 1971. Its opening ceremony was in 1981.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045304.html

Armenia won't participate in Eurovision-2021

H1 public TV announced that the 2020 events and lack of free time prompted them to make a decision to skip Eurovision this year.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045281.html

COVID stats

2825 tested. 442 infected. 378 healed. 2 deaths. 5249 active.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045239.html

parents still complain about kindergarten restrictions

Most kids attend free public kindergartens which have COVID-related restrictions. Parents argue it's too strict and the facilities cannot accept enough kids. Recently, the restrictions were relaxed to increase the number of kids in each class and to reduce the social distancing requirements to fit more kids in each class, but parents argue the changes weren't enough. On the other hand, the Ministry says the infection rate is increasing in the country. The discussions continue...

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208263

֏1B in financial grants for 64 high-tech firms

The government decided to resume the 17th COVID aid package. This month, they will review and select 64 grant-winner businesses in the high-tech field. The ֏1B will be distributed with ֏10-20M payments.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045321.html

anti-corruption: IRS inspectors are caught

SIS investigators said: two tax auditors in Yerevan asked for bribes from several businesses in exchange for ignoring their tax violations in 2020. Both inspectors are charged and the case is in court.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045248.html

anti-corruption: cops busted after falsifying driver's license docs

Police say: a policeman was caught after colluding with a colleague to help a resident to receive a driver's license after the latter failed the driving test. The case was forwarded to SIS, which pressed felony charges against the two officials.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045333.html

nature protection council holds its first session

Nature Protection Minister Romanos recently formed a council consisted of environmentalists, to advise him on nature protection issues. Today, the council held its first session to discuss the creation of groups tasked with specific issues. During the next session, they'll make a lit of environmental topics for future discussions.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045315.html

nature protection inspectors bust 26 violations in just 4 days

֏67M in monetary damages was caused by various companies that misused lands and nature.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208243

Marcos Pizelli becomes soccer ambassador to South America

The prominent former national team player will help connect the Armenian Soccer Federation with South Americans. "I'm happy to be active in the Armenian Soccer world again," said Marcos. He wants to establish close ties with Latin-Armenians, "some of whom one day could become national team players."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045258.html

Top-5 bestseller documentary books in January

5) Life and Freedom, by Robert Kocharyan

4) The subtle art of not giving a f+++, by Mark Nanson

3) Զորավար Անդրանիկը ռուս և բրիտանացի զորականների հուշերում, by Karo Vardanyan

2) The leader who had no title, by Robin Sharma

1) The monk who sold his Ferrari, by Robin Sharma.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045200.html

today in history

1946: Winston Churchill gives the famous "Iron Curtain" speech about Cold War

1953: Joseph Stalin dies (huh, what a coincidence)

1959: Vazgen Sargsyan is born, the first Defense Minister between 1991-1992

1962: French-Armenian actor Simon Abgaryan is born. He is in the movies Aram, Ararat, etc.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1045219.html

In case you missed Thursday news

https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/lxv4v1/mar42021_1_vaccines_2_parliament_grills_judges_3/?

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.


Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/lykgtx/mar52021_news_wrapup_1_the_gcos_who_went_missing/

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