2021 May 10

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Daily news wrap-up

May/10/2021 news: (1) Parliament dissolved (2) Pashinyan about Lake Sevan, debt, judicial, Genocide recognition, war investigation, roads, demographics, agriculture, healthcare, housing, property & income tax, racketeering, election transparency (3) Kocharyan holds rally (4) Gasprom to invest (5)...
by ar_david_hh

Your 18-minute Saturday-Monday report in 4451 words.

Armenia and CIS republics marked the WW2 victory day

Putin congratulated Pashinyan and the Armenian people on the 76th anniversary of the victory day. "We remember the feats of our fathers and grandfathers with a special feeling of pride and gratitude."

Pashinyan congratulated Putin and Russians. "The great legacy of victory is a vital value, a moral guide for future generations, to build a just and secure world."

The annual "Immortal Regiment" march, in which people raise the photos of their WW2 participant family members, is held online this year. The participants shared the photos on social media under hashtags #ԱնմահԳունդ2021 #Бессмертныйполк2021

Armenian and Russian troops organized an event in Gyumri military base.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051721.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051778.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051722.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051796.html

public officials paid tribute and shared messages

[Today is also Shushi's liberation day during the first Artsakh war]

Parliament Pres. Mirzoyan: Despite the fact that Shushi is under Azerbaijani control, it should be one of the most important symbols of the Armenian revival. Armenia must continue the negotiations under the OSCE Minsk Group in order to achieve the Artsakh's right to self-determination and the restoration of territorial integrity. //

Pashinyan visited Yerablur pantheon before joining others in a public event in Hakhtanak Park. They met a group of WW2 veterans.

Pashinyan's message: Congratulations on the 76th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. This is a great holiday that we are justifiably proud of. The contribution of the Armenian people was huge. 500K Armenians from USSR participated in the war and 300K died for victory. 107 of them received titles of Hero.

Many of them would go on to become officers in the Soviet army and reach new heights. They were the spine of the future independent Armenian and Artsakh armies. It was them who joined the volunteers and with the modern spirit of hayduks liberated Shushi.

Unfortunately, Shushi is not with us today. We mourn its captivity but realize that, regardless of the fate and current realities, we must celebrate the day of its liberation. It is one of the glorious pages of our modern history, it has been of great importance to our people.

We must keep the memory of those who died in war alive and we must continue their work. We will betray them if we do not strengthen and develop our homeland today. We will betray their memory if we do not build a strong state that ensures the revival of Artsakh. //

Church leader Garegin B: On this day, we commemorate the tireless efforts of our people, which contributed to the victory against fascism and the establishment of global peace. This is a symbolic day of the liberation of Shushi and the formation of the Artsakh army, however, we also remember the tragic consequences of the war unleashed by Azerbaijan last year. Facing the new challenges today, it is imperative for us to strengthen the army. //

LHK chief Marukyan: we celebrate 3 victories today: WW2, Shushi liberation, and the creation of the Artsakh defense army. Each victory must be used towards the formation of a stronger state. 2020 shows us that we hadn't.

We have to stand up beginning today. What happened is "1:1" [referring to each side winning one war]. It was 1:0, now it's 1:1. It can be 2:1 and 3:1 if we build a stronger state. We are a nation of 10 million.

Our army fought in the most powerful way and to the death. No such wars were observed in our region for decades. We proved that we are a fighting nation and will fight until the end. Certain things must make us proud and not disheartened. We will have new victories. //

Artsakh MFA: In order to record new victories, one must always remember and value historical victories. We proudly remember the heroic deeds of the fighters, thanks to whom we were able to overcome all the challenges, to succeed in the fight against fascism and historical injustice. We congratulate Armenians around the world. //

Full: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051773.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051774.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051775.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051776.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051777.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051779.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051788.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051782.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051783.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051786.html

Deoccupy Shushi NGO

Residents of Shushi and suburb Qarin Tak founded an NGO to lobby international organizations to protect Armenian cultural sites and property rights. The NGO will also provide legal counseling to residents.


Daniel Decker - My Artsakh

Sings in Armenian: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2949770968632005

Story: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051854.html

Martuni stadium reopens after suffering damages during the war

Artsakh's Martuni stadium has been renovated. "You cannot defeat us by shelling the stadium," said the players.


Pashinyan visited a military unit in Gegharquniq province and issued medals

Several soldiers from the 2nd Army Corps received awards. "It is no coincidence that after the 44-day war, we performed the awards ceremonies right here because, during the war, the Second Army Corps was crowned with glory and high combat effectiveness."

Pashinyan issued an Order of Fatherland to late general and Artsakh hero Arkadiy Ter-Tadevosyan.

He also made unannounced visits to several settlements including Vardenis, Tsovak, and Gegharquniq's Martuni, where he received a warm welcome from supporters.

Pashinyan: We must not take drastic actions on regional issues. We must calmly try to understand what happened to us and why. We should not avoid confronting ourselves... We fought and negotiated until the last second during the war... We must understand the reason why the 9th Defense Ring developed a crack. Our army and soldiers gave a heroic fight. //

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051793.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051795.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051797.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051807.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051808.html https://factor.am/368475.html https://youtu.be/t_gUGrY9n0U https://youtu.be/p6GOis6Pi68

update: electoral reforms

The snap elections will be under the newly reformed Proportional system instead of Rating, but the wider electoral code reforms (lower entry threshold, etc.) won't be used during these elections because of not enough time in between passage and elections. Some opposition parties and the Venice Commission warned against deep changes.

During these elections, the winning party has only 6 days to form a coalition to capture 54% of seats, otherwise, 2nd round of elections will be held. Under the reforms, the winner would have had 2 weeks to get 52%.


update: HHK and ex-NSS Arthur Vanetsyan form alliance

HHK Shawarmazanov: HHK and Hayreniq party have similar ideologies. We believe our bloc can work effectively in the national conservative field. Both of us support strong traditional values, national values, strong church, and pro-Armenian outcome in the Artsakh conflict. //


BHK will not join any alliance

We hope people will make the right choice, said BHK, while dismissing rumors that they plan to join the ruling QP party.


LHK blasts the former officials for "helping" Pashinyan

LHK chief Marukyan continues to insist that former regime members should drop out from elections because their low ratings will only help Pashinyan to rally the never-RoboSerj voters. "That's what the polls show."

Marukyan: TV outlets belonging to former governments have not been inviting me for interviews for about a year now. They haven't become a government yet but they already placed me under an information blockade. What would happen if they came to power? It's obvious that they won't win the elections, but that's not the question. What kind of Armenia are they offering? A more "just" Armenia where you don't allow opposition figures?

Full: https://factor.am/368794.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051842.html

Kocharyan + ARF + Reviving Armenia

The three announced an alliance last week. The alliance will be called "Armenia" [creative]. They held a meeting over the weekend. Kocharyan said Armenia is facing extreme challenges which are mostly security-related. "We have a governing and economic crisis. We need experienced people to deal with it."

Kocharyan said he formed an alliance with ARF due to a "lengthy history of cooperation" and "ARF has a history of fighting to preserve the Armenian identity."

He criticized Pashinyan for "poor economy, poverty, and high debt". "We will restore Armenia's rating and predictability. The public will immediately feel the difference."

He promised dozens of thousands of new jobs and support for small and medium businesses.

The alliance held a rally near the Opera building. Former police chief Valeri Osipyan was among the attendees; he recently joined Robocamp [roast me in comments].

Approximately 0-3,000,000 people attended Kocharyan's rally. Different outlets presented different false attendance reports claiming 4K and 40K.

This was Kocharyan's first public rally since 2003. "I never thought I could return and try to win power again. But the challenges we face today are forcing me to come and fight, otherwise, I would be a deserter. This government has 42 days left."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051799.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051806.html https://factor.am/368684.html https://youtu.be/VMEnR7vJ2wY


more news from the criminal world

The police raided the houses of infamous "ganglord" Don Pipo (Arthur Asatryan) and 13 other individuals in connection with the recent murder of Pipo's bodyguard.


A shooting took place in Yerevan on Saturday. One dead and one wounded.


A vehicle from Pashinyan's motorcade got into a car accident. An ambulance was called to transport a critically injured patient.


A drunken Armavir man drove his Toyota into a sheep herd, killing 31. The incident happened on Yerevan-Armavir road. The police are looking for sheep owners.


Public transport marshrutka No. 31 caught on fire in Yerevan. The driver helped to evacuate passengers.


poacher gets bitten by a bear

A hospital called the police after accepting a patient with a bear bite. The 58yo resident of Shatin told the police that he is a forest guard who was patrolling the forest at night when the bear attacked him.

However, the investigation allegedly revealed that he decided to go on an illegal hunting trip. Meanwhile, a bear attacked [domestic] animals behind a fence. He found out about it and shot the bear. When he approached to check, the bear attacked him. He shot again and was bitten again.

A nearby shepherd heard the ordeal and came to aid. He took the man's rifle and killed the bear.


diplomatic news

Russian MFA Lavrov visited Baku after the Yerevan trip. He will discuss regional issues. The same day, Aliyev flew to Nakhijevan to mark the opening ceremony of a military airport.

Putin held a phone convo with Aliyev.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051840.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051880.html

Pashinyan visits Parliament for the second and final symbolic failed vote to trigger snap elections

The Parliament voted against him as Premier the second time to kickstart snap elections. The Parliament has been dismissed. President Sarkissian wasted no time in scheduling snap elections.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051838.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051924.html

Pashinyan about debt to businesses:

As of May 2021, the State has no overdue debt to business. In the past three years, we repaid $500m in debt to businesses. When I took the office, we had ֏274b in debt [$524m today's money]. This is the sum that the business was not supposed to pay to IRS.

Institutional reforms were made to address this issue besides making payments.

Per recent reforms, the State has 1 month to return the over-collected sum, instead of the previous 6 months.


Pashinyan about his biggest failure and achievements:

I consider my biggest failure the 44-day war and developments around the Nagorno Karabakh issue. I've been trying to revisit 2018 and rearrange scenarios. In my opinion, we had definitely already crossed the point of no return as of April 2018 [before the change in govt].

The biggest achievement is that Armenian citizens feel that they own their country. That was the purpose of the peaceful revolution.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051855.html https://youtu.be/8NS71Y5HYQ8?t=39

Pashinyan about a commission to investigate the war:

[Opposition MP complained about the lack of efforts for a comprehensive investigation, and that most similar commissions have too many members appointed by the government]

A commission has to be formed the way the Constitution dictates. I'm willing to be interrogated by investigators. You know where my residence and office are; they were subject to a mini-raid broadcasted live [referring to former regime activists breaking into his residence and stealing products during the November 10 riot]. If there was anything suspicious they would have found it.

The negotiation and war process must be entirely analyzed. Why haven't we formed a commission yet? That has to be the job of the new government. It wouldn't be possible to do it in November.


Pashinyan about relations with Turkey:

Lately, the former regime speculated and called us "Turk lovers". They are questioning our positions regarding our commitment towards the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

In 2018-2021 alone, Armenian Genocide-recognizing 9 resolutions were approved. In comparison, 20 such resolutions were approved in the previous decade which included the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

One of the most important events in the international recognition took place [US Congress and White House].

Those who accuse us of being "Turkey lovers" used to convince the United States not to recognize the Genocide [what is he referring to?]. Now they are accusing us of that.

Turkey is our enemy but they are also our neighbor. It is necessary to manage the hostilities.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051858.html https://youtu.be/84zfcECqzWo

Pashinyan about political prisoners and judicial system:

We don't have innocent people in the penitentiary system today. There was a time when inmates in the penitentiary system were sleeping with turns. The media was flooded with such reports. You don't see that problem today.

For the first time in the 3rd republic, inmates are eager to eat the food provided by the state. It was viewed as unworthy in the past. Inmates' low-income families no longer have to worsen their social status by taking care of inmates. We made these reforms for the people.

We made revolutionary reforms in the field of justice. We have historically low incarceration numbers. The courts are no longer attachments of investigative bodies. This is the most important change in the judiciary. There was a time when an opposition figure was jailed for several months for saying "the ground will burn under their feet."

Today we have a judicial system that can oppress the government. This balance is evidence of an independent judiciary. We are close to reaching our goal.

We have reached a point where it's possible for the President of the Supreme Court to be charged with a felony, and for his colleagues at the Supreme Court to be the ones to investigate and suspend him, and if I'm not mistaken, the charges as relating to the judicial system and it was the judicial system that initiated the case against him. We have reached a point where the judicial system is fighting against corruption within itself.

[What is the Supreme Court chief's case about? Audio was shared in which an Appeals court judge was speaking about how Supreme Court chief Ruben Vardazaryan allegedly instructed him to drop the case against criminal subculture figure Alaverdtsi Vahag (Vahagn Abgaryan). The SIS launched an investigation. Suspect Vardazaryan called the fellow judge's claim "illegal and stupid" and promised to hold a press conference soon.]

Full: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051891.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051849.html https://youtu.be/eEuewuXPeUs

https://factor.am/368962.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213413 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213416 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213440 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213436

Pashinyan about roads:

The aforementioned penitentiary reforms are part of our policy of how we treat people. We spent $2.3m for 650 residents of villages Nor Aznaberd and Khndzorut to have a 14km road connecting each other. It's the largest investment in that village's history.

We didn't say "we will only get 400 votes from this $2m project so let's invest it elsewhere." We built roads not to get votes but to serve people. In these 3 years, we build more roads than in the previous 7 years combined.


Pashinyan about programs to boost demographics:

We made institutional reforms towards demographics. In villages, child care subsidy for working mothers with <2yo children was doubled. Unemployed mothers began receiving aid. And we didn't count how many votes that would earn us.

We increased the aid for 1st born child by 6 times. We established a mortgage assistance program for families with children.

Full: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051891.html

Pashinyan about agricultural aid:

Substantial changes were made in the field of agricultural aid. In the past, the government would distribute full fuel aid to farmers but before it would reach the farmer it would disappear. You can read hundreds of articles complaining about it.

We have a different philosophy now. We want farming to be decent work instead of torture. For the first time in history, we encouraged the farmer to build smart farms with a 50% subsidy, install a drip-irrigation system and you will be given refunds.

In border regions, farmers receive up to 70% subsidy for development programs. With great effort, this system was finally placed on the track. As of right now, farmers received ֏580m in expenditure refunds. It's a good start.


Pashinyan about healthcare:

Yes, the government changed its attitude towards the people. We established free hospital healthcare for those under 18. The majority of our youth have health issues. This is correlated with education, physical exercise, and sports.

In 2018-2020 alone, we spent ֏523m on sports equipment for schools. For comparison, only ֏420m was spent between 2012-2018.

We included conscripts' parents in the universal healthcare package, too.


Pashinyan about housing projects:

Beginning in 2003, the government had an obligation to buy apartments for orphanage students. The demands weren't met between 2003-2019 because orphans aren't a strong voter base. We have assumed and fulfilled those obligations.

The problem of providing housing to army retirees was left unresolved for decades. We spent ֏8b to resolve the issue.

The housing problems of our citizens who fled from Azerbaijan [during the 90s] have not been solved for decades. We are resolving it.


Pashinyan about Lake Sevan water levels, nature protection, irrigation efficiency:

We are expecting one of the most sensational news of our time. This June-July, the lake levels will be the highest in 60 years. This is a result of new water management policies. Some will claim it's because of rain and snow. There was no rain and snow in the past 60 years?

Last year we drained 22.8 m3 less water from Sevan while irrigating 4800 hectares more. The irrigation system's losses reduced by 5% in three years., that's big.

Since 2018, 30 million kWh worth of electricity was saved in the water system.

For the first time in modern history, Sevan fishers are fishing in cooperation with the government and not secretly. It's not a perfect system but the mechanism began working. For the first time, the fisher is making payments to the budget to catch fish.

We plan to use those fees to remove thousands of abandoned nets laying inside Sevan that destroy fish. We will clean the lake from such waste. The fishers themselves will benefit. Right now many fish get caught in these abandoned nets, die, and rot, which makes the ecosystem even more polluted. The rise of temperature also plays a role in water quality but rotten fish is another cause.

Our biggest achievement in nature protection has been a reduction in illegal logging. Compared to 2017, imports of charcoal rose 500%. That means that much less charcoal was produced in Armenia. That means fewer trees were cut.

We have a 128% rise in imports of construction wood which also indicates fewer illegally-cut trees. The number of relevant importers tripled and the market is open; we don't have monopolies anymore.



Pashinyan about tax reforms and shadowy salaries:

As of 2018, we had a 3-tier income tax system: 36%, 28%, and 23%. We changed it to a 23% flat tax rate which will continue to reduce to 20% by 2023. We also lowered the profit tax from 20% to 18%.

This also allowed us to continue to fight against the shadowy economy and shadowy salaries. As of this March, we have 85,000 (+15%) more job positions than in 2018 March.

As for the shadowy practice of declaring one salary but in reality paying another, we have a progress here. Compared to 2018, today the overall salary fund is up by 36% or ֏34b. The average salary rose by ~20%.

While having a lower income tax rate today, we collected ֏4b more compared to 2018.

When we set a flat tax rate, we were criticized for not adhering to the principle of social justice. What we said is the social justice issue is not resolved through salaries because we don't know anyone who became a millionaire just with salaries. Whether the person is a millionaire or not is, first and foremost, reflected in the property they own, and that property tax reform is how we should achieve social justice.

By reforming the property tax system, we significantly strengthened the institute of local self-governance. Settlement budgets will have new capabilities.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051853.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051891.html

Pashinyan about education expenditures & property tax reforms:

I spoke about the property tax. Today, under the property tax reforms, we are already implementing a program of mass construction of kindergartens and pre-schools in the provinces. What is the connection?

Our condition is as follows: dear settlements, we are building this preschool for you under the condition that you will pay for the teachers' salaries and utilities. In the past, settlements would say they don't have the necessary funding. The new property tax will solve that problem.

Our goal is for 75% of pre-school-age children to attend kindergartens and preschools.


Pashinyan about Armenia's debt and bonds at record-favorable rates:

[Earlier this year, Armenia issued 10-year $750m eurodonds at 3.875%.]

Do not be afraid of debt. We are borrowing to invest in the country's economy and the future. The world has gone through a pandemic. You will have difficulty finding states that haven't increased foreign and public debt.

Pay attention to how we entered 2020. For the first time, Armenia announced that it would not take a budget support loan. The debt-to-GDP ratio significantly reduced to 59%.

After the war, we issued $750m worth of eurobonds at record-low rates in Armenia's history. Can you imagine? After war and pandemic, we enter an international market and obtain resources at historically low rates.

That means the international community trusts our country and our government. This means we are international partners.

If necessary, we would borrow whatever it takes, $1b or $2b, to invest in our education system, schools, kindergartens, academic city, because this is an investment in the future. The value of that money is decreasing, you will have capital tomorrow, you will service that debt. Let's not be afraid of debt.

Foreign debt has been borrowed in the past to build the North-South highway project, too. Let's go and see how they [ex-regime] were using the borrowed funds and how we are using it today.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051871.html https://youtu.be/Owk5G7VsveA

Pashinyan about racketeering and over-taxation:

After the revolution, you can freely import and export anything without worrying that someone will try to take over part of your business. We don't have import-export monopolies today. Have you heard of any since 2018?

You can open articles from 4-5 years ago and read how the IRS was demanding more funds from businesses. They called it "overpayment" (գերավճար). According to law, the business was supposed to pay ֏100 but they were demanding ֏150 to meet the tax revenue goals.

After 2018, everyone forgot that this practice ever existed. You won't find a business today that claims the IRS is "scrapping" for more money. Any such incidents today would be resolved in the appeals committee.

Everyone has forgotten that one of the biggest issues in the past 30 years was փայ մտնել (racketeering, forced takeover of part of business). Have you heard about such cases since 2018?

In 2019 we increased budget revenues by 43% all while lowering the tax rate and tax burden. The property tax reforms were institutional in nature and will solve many political, fiscal, and social justice issues.


Pashinyan about election transparency:

Ballot counting will be broadcasted live. The voting will be monitored by dozens of cameras. Everyone has smartphones and the ability to record these days. It's a [gamechanger].

Historically, the opposition never had media ownership. Opposition outlets used to always lose the airway broadcasting license to operate. Today, no matter which outlet you tune in to, they speak against the government. Some of the critics are people under whose watch the opposition was only gaining media presence once every 5 years.


update: teacher certification exams to raise salaries by 30-50%

Teachers in 7-12 grades can take voluntary exams to check their knowledge base. 80-90 points mean +30% salary. >90pt means +50%.

The exam date and locations will be announced in August. The Education Ministry expects 2,000 participants, from whom 1,500 are expected to score over 80 points.


Gasprom-Armenia to invest $208m to overhaul gas network by 2025

Replace and insulate the main gas pipelines, overhaul the gas distribution stations No. 2 and No. 4 in Yerevan and in Gyumri, etc.


NEWS FLASH: sidewalks are for pedestrians

Yerevan municipality began installing sidewalk poles to prevent drivers from parking their vehicles on sidewalks. "Illegally-parked vehicles prevent pedestrians, mothers with strollers, and wheelchairs from moving around."

610 poles are being installed across the capital. The problematic sidewalk near Sundukyan theater is now fully pedestrian. "We understand that drivers often don't have a place to park but that's not an excuse to park on sidewalks."

There is a ֏5k fine for stopping and ֏20k for parking on sidewalks. Last year 702 citations were issued.

Video: https://youtu.be/vCci3XVcLOU?t=6


Kim Kardashian's child looks Armenian

Psalm West is Kim's baby boy. She believes Psalm is the most Armenian-looking among her children. She compared him to her grandfather and father.

🤔 photos: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051874.html

Russian Zenith club is also interested in Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Heno will not play in Roma under coach Jose Mourinho. The latter is basically stalking Heno. The two used to be part of Manchester United and did not get along. Now Mourinho is set to lead Heno's Roma.

Heno's contract will end with Roma soon. Italy's Juventus is interested. Another club is Russian Zenith.

In other news, Roma defeated Crotone. Heno scored a goal and made another goal-pass. video.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051757.html https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/mourinho-mkhitaryan-man-utd-mkhi-24039150 https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051818.html

chad-lads win tickets to Tokyo Olympics

Armenia's sports team has two new Olympics participants. Wrestlers Aslanyan and Melikyan made it to finales and secured a trip.

Armenia has 6 players so far: Athlete Arthur Davtyan, Greco-Roman wrestlers Arthur Alexanyan and Karapet Chalyan, freestly wrestlers Arsen Harutyunyan and Vazgen Tevanyan, and boxer Koryun Soghomonyan.


COVID stats since Saturday

8374 tested. 672 infected. 1893 healed. 40 deaths. 8863 active (down)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051696.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051780.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051828.html

Last Bell school ceremonies will be allowed this year

... amid a reduction in COVID cases, "but you should comply with all pandemic safety rules", said Education Ministry.


end of report

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

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Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/n9ffm5/may102021_news_1_parliament_dissolved_2_pashinyan/

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