2021 May 11

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

May/11/2021 newsletter: (1) Armenians built Baku (2) Details of new $60m skiing resort to compete against GEO & AZ (3) Tourism stats (4) Commission to examine suspicious army deaths (5) Karabakh Conflict news: Lavrov & Azerb. (6) Kocharyan's bribery trial (7) Electoral commission (8) Yerevan scuffle
by ar_david_hh


Your 12-minute Tuesday report in 3111 words.

говоришь по-русски? Daily news in Russian

Redditor Impossible-Ad- is translating my posts. They are not edited or monitored by me:

https://www.reddit.com/r/ArmDailyReports_RUS_/

72% fewer tourists arrived in 1Q21 vs 1Q20

This is the last quarter where we compare before and after COVID stats.

1Q19: 364K

1Q20: 311K

1Q21: 86K

https://factor.am/369597.html

nationality of tourists in Armenia (so far this year)

35% Russia

31% Armenia

11% Iran

10% Georgia

https://factor.am/369597.html

tourism sector is slowly recovering / many festivals this year

The Tourism Committee invited widely-watched Russian television outlets NTV and Russia-1 to a press conference to boost Russian tourism.

Tourism Committee: the May holidays showed activity, especially among Russian tourists. We did expect Russian tourists in the first half of May but the high demand for Russian-speaking tour guides is inspiring.

It's too early to say that tourism has recovered. Armenia has opened its borders but many countries remain closed. International studies predict a full recovery only after 2023.

There will be many festivals in Armenia this year. Over 30 various types of festivals between May and November. Tolma Festival (May 22) marks the beginning. You will get to taste different varieties of tolma. It will be accompanied by cultural events.

Then comes the Yerevan Wine Day, Ecotourism, Aveluk Festival (ugh?), Mullberry, Tango, Beer, Honey, Berries, Khorotavs, Crafts, Jazz, and other festivals.

We need to show the world that Armenia is safe during the pandemic. Tour operators are already working with Russian, German, and English tourists. The German TV routinely informs its citizens on which countries are open for travel. Armenia was often mentioned. That's a great advertisement for us.

To promote internal tourism in Armenia, on May 27 there will be a "Discover Armenia" event in Yerevan's Khachqar Park, featuring provinces. Undiscovered places will be presented.

Adventure tourism grew rapidly in recent years. It's important because it boosts the image and attracts younger tourists. The average age of tourists in other sectors is >40.

Special attention will be paid to gastro-tourism which is Armenia's "business card". There will be cooking classes with special dishes. Chefs will present their respective provinces with traditional dishes.

On May 27 we plan to hold a meeting with foreign and local experts to discuss the digitization of tourism to expand the global reach. On May 16, Armenia will participate in a tourism expo in Dubai. 'The Eastern markets are interesting and have a great potential."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051964.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051968.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051975.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051994.html

newly-formed commission examined suspicious deaths in the military

In August of 2020, Pashinyan formed a group tasked with examining army deaths that took place under controversial circumstances, unrelated to enemy actions.

The group consists of members appointed by the Premier and the victims' families to ensure transparency. The group finalized and presented its first report. Pashinyan and soldiers' families met to discuss it.

The 140-page report was prepared relating to the decade-old case of Tigran Ohanjanyan. They examined the circumstances and the subsequent felony investigation and found that investigators made several violations relating to evidence-gathering and other proceedings. The findings will be sent to the authorities.

The soldier's mother said his son's case has a 14-year history, and that she is satisfied with this report and she took part in its creation. Pashinyan emphasized that there is an agreement on the results and vowed to continue the process.

The commission will now examine the death of Valerik Muradyan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051976.html

Tags: #ArmyDeaths

border news

Russian peacekeeper fleet made a routine patrol trip in the Lachin Corridor. They control the Armenia-Artsakh road and a 5km buffer zone around it.

https://youtu.be/JiA4p0MYuVk

Armenian army reported no incidents on AM-AZ borders today.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1052011.html

Artsakh conflict / Comments by Lavrov, Azerbaijan, and Armenia

Ilham Aliyev: I see a reduction of the possibility of new hostilities amid positive developments but a revanchist sentiment still persists in Armenia.

Azeri MFA: "now that Azerbaijan has implemented the UN Security Council resolution and liberated its lands, we can talk about restoring relations with Armenia. Azerbaijan is interested in it."

Lavrov: The OSCE Minsk Group continues to be in demand, first and foremost in promoting confidence-building measures and humanitarian issues. The key is the full implementation of the November 9 and January 11 trilateral agreements.

They are about maintaining peace and unblocking regional infrastructure, the blockade of which has not allowed this region to experience its full transit and economic potential. Unblocking the infrastructure will allow the South Caucasus states, together with their neighbors, to join a common transport area.

https://factor.am/369395.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051970.html https://factor.am/369384.html

Pashinyan's spokeswoman: Azerbaijan is trying to justify the non-fulfillment of the obligation to return the POWs by making unfounded claims. We consider the non-fulfillment of the obligations assumed by point 8 of the November 9 trilateral statement to be unacceptable. [Aliyev still refuses to release POWs]

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1052002.html

Lavrov about POWs & landmine map [in layman's terms]: Armenia should share the map of where the landmines are so Azeris will stop blowing up, while Azeris should return Armenian POWs. I'm under the impression that Armenia is interested. [some outlets incorrectly reported that Armenia has already agreed to share landmine map]

https://factor.am/369427.html https://fip.am/15452

A group of Spanish Senators held signs urging Azerbaijan to release POWs.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1052033.html

Lavrov meets Aliyev: We thank you for valuing our peacekeepers. We will do our best for everyone to accept that the military aspects are closed. Now it is necessary to deal with specific tasks. There is a delimitation and demarcation. This isn't easy, but it's doable. Military and diplomatic experts can agree to find solutions.

Lavrov about cultural sites: we are ready to create conditions for UNESCO to protect the cultural heritage of Nagorno Karabakh. Obviously, we must take into account the positions of each side.

Lavrov about doing business in Karabakh: we are encouraging our businesses to participate in the recovery program that we had planned.

https://factor.am/369367.html

Armenia's Human Rights Ombudsman: I forwarded Ilham Aliyev's Armenophobic speech made in April to international organizations, to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Council of Europe, and elsewhere. His speeches and message are subject to special monitoring.

Our goal is to show the genocidal nature of Azeri authorities, which is a gross violation of international human rights, and a threat to peace. [Armenia has been lately building a case to show that Artsakh's population has the legal right to self-determination due to existential threat.]

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1052000.html

Armenians built Baku

Azerbaijan's capital Baku became a major administrative centner thanks to Armenian architects.

Today Parliament held a photo expo to feature works of Armenian architects Nikolay Bayev, Hovhannes Ter-Hovhannisyants, Vardan Sargsyan, and others. Architects from Shushi played a big role in the formation of Baku.

MP Lilith Makunts: 115 Armenian engineerings who studied in St. Petersbourg between 1885-1915 took part in various architectural projects, including in Baku.

Armenian architect Nikolay Bayev was Baku's main architect between 1911-1918. Under his administration, a cultural monument was created, today known as the opera and ballet theater of Baku.

He also designed the Sabuchi railway station building.

Unlike the current policy adopted by Azerbaijan, Armenians have enriched their culture with the elements of Armenian culture.

Photos: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051996.html

54 more Artsakh refugee families return home

Artsakh's consulate in Armenia is helping 271 people to return. They were given a tour of the new housing construction site to familiarize with the conditions.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1052009.html

fake news was circulated claiming a stabbing in the Netherlands

3 Azeris did not stab an Armenian lawyer last week. The social media user who circulated the rumor later removed the post.

https://factor.am/369264.html

Israeli Premier's son shares Kurdistan flag

Classes took place between Israelis and Arabs in Jerusalem. Rockets were fired back and forth.

Turkey's Erdogan called Israel "savage and terrorist". In response, Netanyahu's son Tweeted the Kurdistan flag.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213495

Armenia sends condolences to Russia over Columbine-style school shooting

The shooting took place in a school in Kazan city. Eleven children and a teacher were killed with dozens being wounded. Children attempted to escape out of the windows.

The shooter is a former student who revealed his plans to massacre the students this morning on his Telegram account, shortly before the attack.

Putin instructed authorities to tighten the gun control regulations.

MFA and Pashinyan: condolences and speedy recovery

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051984.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1052003.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213501

Kocharyan's $4 million bribery trial is delayed again

Former president Kocharyan and his deputy Premier Armen Gevorgyan are accused of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from a mining businesswoman who came forward after the revolution.

Today the defense asked for the trial to be delayed until after the elections citing Kocharyan's active participation in the elections. The defense argued it's about delaying only 3 trials, and that last year 10 trials were delayed under various circumstances, so delaying 3 more trials is no biggie.

Prosecutors objected, saying Kocharyan's campaign is not an excuse for a lengthy delay.

The judge sided with prosecutors and chose not to delay it until June 20, but did delay it until May 25 because defendant Gevorgyan was "sick" again and did not appear for trial. "He is being monitored by doctors."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051969.html https://youtu.be/jlfaOGQoKRQ https://youtu.be/D9J4tiudoeU

former BHK firebrand MP Gevorg Petrosyan is reportedly rejected by Kocharyan

Gevorg Petrosyan recently quit BHK so he could be "unchained". It came amid BHK's refusal to publicly ally themselves with Kocharyan. Gevorgyan publicly praised Kocharyan.

During Kocharyan's weekend rally, Gevorg was seen standing in the crowd among the ordinary rallygoers. He wasn't on the stage.

Reportedly, Kocharyan himself prohibited him from joining the stage, saying he wouldn't be on the ballot list under Kocharyan's new alliance.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213563

electoral commission discusses election rules and transparency

Several electoral code reforms were passed recently. Some will be applied during the June elections, while others will go into effect later.

Voters will no longer use a pen to mark their preferred candidate. It often resulted in invalid ballots. They will be given several ballots. The preferred party's ballot will be placed in an envelop and cast.

Since the post-reform elections will be held under the Proportional system, there won't be anything on the backside of the ballot anymore, there won't be individual regional candidates, no pen will be used, said the Commission.

The official campaign is between June 7-18.

Commission chief: we are working towards the installation of live-broadcasted cameras in at least 1,500 polling stations. During the 2018 Parliamentary elections, we had cameras in 1,500 out of the 2,009 stations. This is where the vast majority of voters are. Only rural locations with very few voters do not have cameras. //

Prior to the launch of the official campaign season, you can already see election posters promoting parties. When asked whether this violates the law, the commission chief said it doesn't because there are no officially registered candidates yet and some restrictions do not apply yet.

Commission chief: the campaign season begins after candidates register. From that point onward the propaganda rules apply. Violators will have the violating posters removed. //

The wider electoral code reforms, which won't be implemented during these elections, envision stricter campaign restrictions.

A lottery draw will decide each party's number on the ballot box. The ballot will have this number printed on all sides at different heights, so if a ballot-counters make an error and place the ballot on the wrong party's stack, it will be easier to detect.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051981.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051987.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051990.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051995.html https://factor.am/369447.html https://youtu.be/odqmGLPo2O4 https://youtu.be/2wD1xBNO3QM

13,360 students apply for university this year

... reports the Assessment & Testing Center. That's 1K fewer than last year. What are the most common exam subjects?

Math 5,392

Armenian lang & lit 4,396

English 4,438

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051966.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213505

authorities bust a large illegal gambling operation, the third one in recent weeks

Police report: beginning in February, without a license, a man organized poker gambling matches featuring chips ranging from $0.20 to $50. He took a cut from the prize and didn't pay taxes. $10.5m in damages were done to the state. We also found weed during the raid. [big if true] //

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051997.html https://youtu.be/YEItuEM1p2I

anti-corruption: Artashat's green zone was sold illegally

Authorities audited land transactions in several settlements and believe that the Artashat mayor held several illegal auctions to give away lands for construction projects, some of which were public green zones and weren't suited for that. The auditors contacted prosecutors.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213555

Yerevan city officials fight over office space

There was an argument that escalated into a fight in Center District. The participants were District chief Armen Azizyan and District Urban Development chief Manuel Margaryan. The latter was transported to a hospital.

According to Urban guy Manuel's aide, 10 men broke into an office over an incident that began after the city decided to merge the two departments. Several employees of the merged department were laid off but they refused to leave, citing pending legal challenge. Their refusal to free the office space escalated into a fight.

The police made two arrests and charged the officials with abuse of power and hooliganism.

https://youtu.be/CdalMV8rFBE

https://factor.am/369390.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213488 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213519 https://factor.am/369576.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213544

COVID stats

2678 tested. 243 infected. 475 healed. 7 deaths. 8620 active.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051946.html

there is a line to get a vaccine in Northern Avenue

The mobile station installed in the pedestrian boulevard has administered vaccines for 12 patients within an hour after opening, with others waiting in line. Visitors often wanted to know which type of vaccine is available.

A second mobile station was installed elsewhere. They complement the clinics which recently began operating on the weekends to increase vaccination rates.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051980.html

Artsakh banking stats

Individuals and businesses hold $255.8m in bank deposits today, compared to $247m in the same period last year.

+3.5% vs last year's May

+4.3% vs this March

+10.3% vs this February

Banking credit investment was down 38% from last year. Total loan volume down by 35%. Overdue loans reached $4.4m compared to $1m last year.

More: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051977.html

Music: DETQ - Gishere (ԴԵՏՔ - Գիշերը)

https://youtu.be/R1OFW3txua0?t=10

IRS meets USAID

Armenian IRS presented its 5-year plan about legal reforms and infrastructure upgrades during a meeting with the USAID. The USAID reminded about their 2020-2025 aid plan for Armenia and expressed willingness to cooperate with IRS.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051978.html

another bill to reform school director election process

Education Ministry is making another change to the director election process. The candidate would need 6 out of 9 school board member votes to be approved.

This way, neither the Education Ministry with its 5 board members nor the union of teachers/parents with 4 board members could unilaterally decide who the director is.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051576.html

re: $60m investment project to create a new skiing resort and ropeway in Aparan

We learned on Monday that a private investor Myler Mountain Resort is working with the government to create a new skiing resort, hotels, ropeway, and restaurant in Aparan. They needed land from the government. The latter supports the project, acknowledging that Armenia lags behind Georgia and Azerbaijan in skiing tourism.

Interview with the CEO Mher Baghdasaryan:

Can you give us details? Is this the project that you wanted to do in Lori 3 years ago?

Yes, we planned it in Lori 3 years ago. A world-leading Canadian company specialized in skiing resorts was invited. They examined the Armenian landscape and made suggestions. Initially, we decided to build it in Lori's Antarshen but later changed it to Aparan.

What's the volume of investments?

There are two stages. During we first stage we invest ֏15b and a foreign investor also invests ֏15b. That's $60m by the end of the first phase. There are foreign investors who are very interested in this project.

What else besides ropeway and skiing path?

Almost everything. The first phase will build a hotel, restaurants, ropeway, shopping platforms, shopping stores, changing rooms, cafes, ski rental place, skiing school, workshops, medical center, communication station, storages, etc.

When?

Besides favorable weather, it also depends on several decisions made by the government. We presented our vision. Upon approval, we can finalize it within a short period, about 2-3 years.

What are your expectations from the government?

We presented ideas and they already gave preliminary approval. We don't have large financial expectations. We expect legal and somewhat political decisions. I want to emphasize that the Investment Support Center has been very supportive of us.

Economy Ministry says this project will improve competitiveness. Will it compete against Tsakhkadzor? And have you decided on pricing?

The competition will be international and not within Armenia. We will compete against Georgia's Gudauri or Russia's Rosa Khutor. This will turn our region more interesting for those who like this type of tourism.

This type of business has an interesting peculiarity, the more you have, the more they help each other instead of harming. Andorra is a good example. They have an area the approximate size of Armenia but with dozens of mountain skiing resorts, and they all help to develop the state. [but apparently not soccer]

It appears these resorts are cheaper in neighboring states

As of today, yes, Tsakhkadzor is not a competitor to Georgia and Azerbaijan. This project will make Armenia competitive. Right now we're working on programs to cooperate with Georgia's skiing resorts.

$60m is a lot. How long is the payback period to recover the investment?

If we focus on the ropeway alone, no ropeway in the world allows reaching the break-even point. This is why 98% of the skiing resorts are built by governments.

We happen to be one of those 2% cases when the private company is investing. We have done the calculations. It'll take a long time but it's possible because of the adjacent infrastructure that's being built. [tldr: sell պեռաշկի, cover costs]

Do you expect most visitors to be Armenian or foreigners?

Armenia has an agreement with Russia that allows Russian nationals to visit Armenia with their passports. Georgia and Azerbaijan do not have this advantage. We also have under-utilized potential with our neighbor Iran.

Do you already have the needed lands in Aparan?

We purchased lands in areas that interest us, but not enough for this project. This is one area where we expect the government's help. We want those lands to be declared of "public importance" [allows the government to take lands from private owners in exchange for fair compensation if it's for something important for the state. Was done in Northern Avenue, North-South highway, Kond district].

Economy Ministry expects 1,500 new jobs. During what stage?

By the end of the first stage, we expect to have 1,500 jobs with ֏180k/mo average salary.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213069

Tags: #Aparan #SkiingResort

in case you missed yesterday's news

https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/n9ffm5/may102021_news_1_parliament_dissolved_2_pashinyan/

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

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Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/na5x46/may112021_newsletter_1_armenians_built_baku_2/

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