2021 May 7

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Daily news wrap-up

May/7/2021: (1) Armenia's renewable energy sector to liberalize w/independent sellers. $1.1B investments. Solar & wind (2) Main electoral reforms pass: mandatory debates, passing threshold, transparency (3) Constitutionality of Martial Law (4) VOMA (5) Housing projects (6) Political drama (7) +++
by ar_david_hh

Your 18-minute Friday report in 4539 words.

round 2: Parliament approves main electoral code reforms

In addition to the earlier reforms that replaced Rating system with Proportional, the Parliament discussed the main parts of the reform.

At least 4 public debates with 90 minutes each will be mandatory, with at least one of them being held between frontrunners. "We held the first pre-election public debate in 2018 on H1 TV. The amendment will make it mandatory," said an MP.

Another amendment is about campaign finance transparency relating to foundation money.

Individual parties will need to win 4% instead of 5% to enter Parliament. Requirement for coalitions becomes stricter with a point increase to 8% for 3 parties, and 10% for 4 parties.

Citizens in foreign countries still cannot vote but "hopefully it will be addressed later," said an MP.

Parties will have to deposit ֏7.5m instead of the current ֏10m to participate in elections.

Reform will ensure the size of Parliament does not expand. The Constitution mandates at least 101 seats plus 4 for ethnic minorities. The likelihood of more seats being added reduces.

The party that won the most votes will attempt to form a coalition first. Within 2 weeks they will try to join with other parties in the way to have at least 52% of MPs. If they fail, the smaller parties will have a week to form a coalition with 52% MP.

Opposition LHK MP complained that the ruling party did not discuss the final version of the bill before holding a vote. Ruling MP responded, "you and I spoke about this behind closed doors; the changes were technicalities." Another opposition MP Babajanyan said their party participated in the discussions and they support the reforms.

Bipartisan groups, including opposition and ruling parties, took part in discussions for these reforms that began years earlier. Several amendments were made since then.

Parliament voted 82-0 to approve the bill.

[Unless I misunderstood, these changes will be impossible to implement before upcoming snap elections because of lack of time.]

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213249 https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051523.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051525.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051526.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051527.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051528.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051530.html https://factor.am/367918.html https://youtu.be/tV1lmUXAtSE

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213201 https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051659.html

Tags: #ElectoralReform #ElectoralCode

LTP + Rob + Serj = no love

First president LTP recently declassified data about his meeting with Rob and Serj. He justified the move by saying neither participant said at the time that the meeting details should be kept secret.

He attempted to convince them to form an alliance. Rob categorically rejected the offer, while Serj said that Rob would have to agree for the alliance to work. Serj rejected it, too.

LTP said he published the info without their approval as a public pressure to make one last attempt to form the alliance to defeat "disgraceful" Nikol.

LTP said: For the first time we are witnessing political discourse, something that I couldn't do in 1997 with my "War or peace" article. Former president of Artsakh Arkadiy and Bako supported the idea for alliance and wanted to make it happen. //

Today Serj responded to LTP again, saying a two-way alliance wouldn't be effective. He also indirectly accused LTP of fabricating a letter in which Serj allegedly agreed to co-sign an alliance letter with LTP: "I see that letter for the first time."

User /u/LordOfRight

adds: if Levon's proposed alliance happened, Rob, Serj and Levon would promise to not take any position in the office after the elections.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051635.html https://factor.am/368406.html

Kocharyan and ARF will hold a rally on Sunday

Kocharyan will lead the alliance with ARF and Reviving Armenia parties. You are invited to Opera square on Sunday to shape the victory, says the memo.


judicial news / disciplinary actions

Judges held a routine meeting in the Hamalir building. They had to elect two members for two judicial board positions. Judge Arman Hovhannisyan was interviewed.

He complained about "intervention" in judicial affairs by Justice Ministry. The story began in November 2020 during the post-war chaotic period when the authorities arrested a group suspected of attempting to assassinate Pashinyan. An audio call was published. One of the phone call participants was also charged with smuggling the weapons out of Artsakh.

The judge ended up removing the arrest from that suspect, which raised the ire of authorities. Shortly later, similar stories unfolded with judges releasing suspects charged with publicly beating up Parliament President, and other crimes. The ruling party accused the head of the Supreme Court of being politically motivated and pressuring his judges to drop the cases against the former regime activists.

When that particular suspect was freed, prosecutors filed a complaint with Justice Ministry. The Justice Ministry, in turn, asked the court to launch a disciplinary hearing against the judge. The judge views the launching of this disciplinary hearing as pressure.

In other news. Ind. MP Babajanyan introduced a bill for more thorough vetting of judges. He criticized the ruling party for being too lenient and allowing judges to take orders from the former regime. A ruling party MP said, "I agree that we need to have a clean judiciary but it has to be effective, legal, and in line with international practice."

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213251 https://factor.am/368259.html https://factor.am/368274.html https://factor.am/368312.html

opinion: military expert Vova Vardanov (VOMA) about the reasons for 2020 defeat and steps needed to develop Armenia's military industry

Reporter: when asked whether we prepared for war appropriately, Pashinyan recently listed a large number of new fortifications, weapon and device purchases, including modern ones, between 2018-2020, and he said Azerbaijan decided to attack before Armenia had a chance to develop its military.

Vova: of course you should try to hide certain things, but old weapons also play a big role. The OSA [air defense] weapons the government purchased recently were all destroyed but they did their job properly. I'm glad they purchased them. Old Russian weapons contain programs that can be modernized. Unfortunately, we renovated the OSAs but did not modernize them, otherwise, they would be even more effective.

As for Pashinyan's claim that we incited the war by modernizing and purchasing more weapons, were we supposed to remain in Stone Age? The biggest incitement of war is staying weak.

Reporter: would it be physically possible to reach a military strength balance in just 2-3 years? How long would Armenia need to develop to prevent Azerbaijan from having the breakthrough in the south?

Vova: it's a common misconception that the opponent won the war because of weaponry disbalance. The balance was also broken in Martuni, Akna, and Kelbajar, yet the opponent was unable to advance there.

In Kelbajar they invaded a few positions which were very quickly recaptured. The same in Yeghnikner (north-east) which were liberated quickly. The army reported that we entered Gyulistan and climbed up the hill behind it, but it was a naked zone so the commander rightfully ordered to retreat into forests because the opponent had air superiority. The drones couldn't spot our troops as easily in forests.

Did we stop them in Martakert? Yes, we pulled back a bit, leaned on the mountains, and stopped them. In Akna the opponent had no advancement whatsoever. In Martuni only very little retreat, but only because of Hadrut-Jabrayil losses.

It's not just the disbalance of weapons that matters. Look, a weapon can be old or new, but if the person using the weapon is not properly trained, that weapon becomes scrap metal. You need your reservists to be trained, too.

But we had only been training the regular army. Obviously, they sustained losses during the war and they had to be supplemented, but their replacement was inexperienced.

Reporter: so why couldn't Azeris break through the areas you mentioned but did so in the south? Did we have bad command in the south or is it because Azerbaijan focused all of its forces in those areas for larger disbalance?

Vova: without giving names, I'll say that wrong orders were given to appoint bad commanders in Kelbajar, too. I was there and witnessed it. But the mistakes were quickly corrected and the right people were appointed. In this area, the losses were quickly replenished by experienced replacement units. This is why Armenians neutralized Azeri advancement within just 3-4 days.

Improperly trained reservists aren't the only problem. One of our retired generals recently claimed we have up to 5 defense lines. That's false. Either he doesn't know how the military works, just like many "advisers", or he is intentionally misleading the public.

The frontline consists of guards, defense, command units, artillery, further artillery, but all this is one "line", even if they are separate. All this is one whole line.

The enemy can bring a 10-1 strength ratio and break this line and Azerbaijan was able to do so because we are idiots and since 1993 our strategy was not to take the initiative in our hands. It was a big mistake. The army copied strategy from Russian books but they couldn't even read them. They just copied it. In those books, it explains that at any cost you must take the initiative in your hands and dictate your terms, even if there is an unexpected attack.

The enemy was allowed to concentrate the needed amount of forces [in the south] and make a breakthrough. For this crack to close, we needed to build the second line of defense. As it states in Russian books, the second line is installed without counting any specific kilometers. It can be 10-20km. The important part is for the enemy's artillery to be unable to penetrate your second line.

We had many retreating troops. Fear is understandable during the war but those who were routing are sounding like tigers today, they should stay silent. So, these retreating troops would ideally cross this second line where the police forces would stop them and bring them to their senses. A few days of rest, a few lashes, a few arrests, a few military tribunals and executions later they could be regrouped with new commanders.

Reporter: so we had an institutional problem in front lines?

Vova: this second line wasn't built properly. It would require just a few days of work. We needed to bring a large number of volunteers to dig the second line with tractors and hands. Then build the third line another 15km deeper.

This would be possible if some public figures didn't throw themselves to the front lines for PR or even honest fight, and instead, focused their resources on building the second line. They could have gathered volunteer residents from Ghapan, Meghri, Goris to dig.

When my unit reached Taghavart, there was nothing there. We dag trenches very quickly, deep enough to take cover from the artillery shots that came later. But the routing soldiers don't think about this type of stuff. You need to have the second line of defense so they will see that there is some defense line, where they could stay and fight again.

Reporter: Pashinyan recently said that Serj wanted to give away 7 regions plus [Sushi through repopulation and possible referendum] but Azerbaijan didn't agree even for that deal. If Armenia was negotiating to give away those lands, how could it build new defense lines and prepare for peace at the same time? Don't you think that we neither went with peace nor with war preparation?

Vova: I'm sure that Pashinayn wanted to win this war. His actions in the first days are indicative of that. I went on the 2nd day but I was paying attention to what was happening in Yerevan. He wanted to win. What is being talked in politics now is irrelevant. You need to pay attention to what was spoken before.

Our biggest problem was not that we had old weapons. Nobody wanted to be known as a land giver except for Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Everyone thought we should have fought to defend ourselves.

Our problem is that we did not prepare the general public for war. The fighter is The People, not the State. Some people did everything except for preparation. They sang Gini Lits and songs about defeating Turks, and nothing more. But you need to learn how to use the weapon, how to be part of a team, feel your comrade's shoulder. This wasn't done. The public wasn't prepared.

Under Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan's 2016 "Nation, Army" law there was a section that I was glad to see but it didn't catch anyone else's attention. Everyone was discussing things like a vacation for soldiers, the path to become an officer, etc. but pretty much nobody else paid attention to the Active Reserves clause.

Active reserve means having about 10% of the population being military-ready. Can you imagine if we actually had an Active Reserve? After that law's adoption, only in the spring of 2019, they began implementing it with orders, sub-sections of laws, etc.

In 2020 the government went a step further and implemented the law about ashkharazhor army. That means everyone, including forgotten citizens and seniors, would be involved with the country's defense. But unfortunately, it remained on paper. [order to create ashkharazor was issued in August, the war began next month]

Yes, 2-3 years is not enough for such reforms, but come and see the results of our mobilization that takes just 12 days [he is the head of a military group]. We could do 6 such mobilizations within a few years to train the public.

Come and see how rookies train and perform. We have 90 recruits in Bjni forests right now, from which 20 are pro. The other 70 are rookies. Among them are 30 young men who are yet to become conscripts.

Reporter: no wonder why Aliyev issued a warrant for your arrest.

Vova: of course. I'm not a sheep. I'm the proponent of action instead of posters and slogans. Of course Aliyev will call me a terrorist and make a big deal about my visit to Artsakh.

Reporter: about weapons. In 2012 Armenian Parliament adopted a resolution that if you want to purchase weapons from a non-CSTO country, such as Israel, you would need permission from CSTO states. 94% of our weapons were Russian, while 64% of Azerbaijan's were from Israel.

Vova: that ratio isn't as important. Azerbaijan purchased high-tech but expensive weapons from Israel. Harop drone does the damage of one artillery strike but it costs 100x the artillery...

Reporter: ... okay but shouldn't our hands be untied while purchasing weapons? Earlier you complained that Russia could have given us better weapons but didn't. What would we need from Russia for balance?

Vova: I'll bring the tank example. As I've been saying since 2012, we should purchase old T-55 tanks from Russia, too. Even T-34 is a decent tank in the Bulgarian and Albanian army to this day. Take the old weapon. Take the old OSA for free. Russians would gladly give us the OSA and T-55 for free and be happy that we don't want T-72 from them.

The important part is it should be "free". The money you would normally spend on a new T-72 could be used to upgrade the old T-55 in a way to be better than the T-72. The same is true about OSA, it can match TOR if it's modernized.

You can buy TOR, or you can have a military industry and upgrade an old OSA to match the TOR, all for the same price. The difference is you would have a military industry with army jobs with the second option. Russia would gladly get rid of its old stuff.

Some people still think the purchase of old OSA was disgraceful, they try to forget and get rid of that upgrade program. I disagree. We need to take those weapons that have the modernization potential and can serve the purpose until 2050.

Pantzir-S can shoot drones. OSA can do the exact same job with "shilka" next to it [shilka is presumably a modernized attachment to OSA]. They would do the exact same job, yet OSA is 50x cheaper.

Sure, TOR is more modern and ready for use without upgrades and you need to modernize OSA which takes months. But if we use these 4.5 years to modernize the military industry, we can have 100 OSA units instead of 1 TOR. This practice is used today by Russia.

Print money, buy weapons, cause some inflation, but at least you will create dozens of thousands of military industry jobs and pay salaries.

Reporter: Armenia could fall under border blockade during the war so having an own industry is important. Is the new High Tech Minister Hayk Chobanyan working with you?

Vova: Yes. Minister Chobayan is very decent, much better than the previous one who was inadequate. Other military industry companies and I held several meetings with Chobanyan with each meeting being more fruitful than the previous.

Full: https://youtu.be/maBYOm753Gg

Tags: #War #2020War #Vova #MilitaryIndustry

Constitutional Court's verdict on the constitutionality of 2020 martial law

The government declared martial law when the war began. Martial law introduced certain restrictions. The Human Rights Office challenged some of the restrictions. Here is the outcome:

The clause about restricting speech prohibits the circulation of unofficial news, criticism or countering of official reports, etc. Some of it was found unconstitutional. Specifically, the Court struck down the ban on criticism that questions the efficiency of officials' decisions. But interestingly, it did not appear to strike down the part that bans criticism as a whole. Only a specific phrase was removed.

The Court found that the police had the right to enforce the removal of publications that were restricted under martial law, or confiscation of relevant materials.

Several other clauses were also found to be legal.

https://factor.am/368420.html https://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?docid=146652

US Congressman calls for $50m aid to Artsakh and a ban on military aid to Azerbaijan

Rep. Chris Smith, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for a $50m aid for Artsakh's security, building housing, medical aid, and infrastructure.

He condemned Turkey's recruitment of Syrian mercenaries for Azerbaijan, calling for the State Department to "give an appropriate assessment to Turkish actions" against Artsakh.

He also called for the restoration of article 907 which bans military aid to Azerbaijan.


what military aid does the US provide to Azerbaijan?

The US has been providing aid to Baku under the condition that it won't be used against Armenia and won't harm the Artsakh negotiation process.

The aid package is about anti-terror operations, anti-narcotics, anti-organized crime, sea and land border protection, reconnaissance, services, devices, demining.

Between 2000-2020, the US provided $212m aid to Armenia and $419m to Azerbaijan. The gap widened during Trump between 2017-2020 with $16m to Armenia and $105 to Azerbaijan.

Joe Biden recently decided to continue to provide this military aid to Azerbaijan despite opposition during the presidential campaign.

The US described the Azeri aid not as "military" but as "anti-terror" in nature. Critics argue that it's pointless to tp provide anti-terror aid to a country that recruited thousands of terrorists during the 44-day war.


Artsakh and Himnadram are building 25 new settlements to provide permanent housing to IDPs

The Cadastre Committee is cooperating with 10 companies to create blueprints for 25 new settlements with a combined 2,600 houses.

The master plans will be developed in the first stage. It will have the infrastructure for water delivery, sewage, gas, electricity, streets, and sidewalks. The works began 3 months ago.

The preliminary work is expected to be complete this July followed by the launch of the construction process. It is fully subsidized by your donations to the All Armenia Fund.

Full: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051559.html

Canada joins France and urges Azerbaijan to release POWs

They welcomed the release of 3 POWs earlier this week.


Turkey is trolled over a Twitter post that seemingly recognized the Armenian Genocide

Latvia officially recognized the Armenian Genocide yesterday. Turkish defense ministry wrote a tweet saying, "We reject and do not recognize the Latvian Parliament's decision on the genocide."

Some people wondered whether the Tweet acknowledges that it was actually a genocide. The tweet was promptly deleted.

https://factor.am/368301.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051672.html

Facebook removes fake accounts operated by Azeri Defense Ministry

124 accounts, 15 pages, 6 groups, in a month. Plus 30 Instagram account.


Armenian and Russian prosecutors have been cooperating to release POWs

... said General prosecutor Davtyan today. They cooperated to clarify the POW identities and crimes committed against them. He said there are felony warrants for several Azeri officials.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051593.html https://youtu.be/7gXPotZrIro

letters are written

Education Ministry wrote a complaint letter to UNESCO about Azerbaijan's destruction of Armenian cultural and religious sites in occupied territories.


Artsakh MFA Babayan wrote a letter to OSCE Minsk Group for the latter to ensure Azerbaijan does not block water flow from the Qarvachar region to Artsakh and Armenia.


authorities are cracking down on criminal subculture enterprise within prisons

Prosecutors have identified three "thieve in-laws" (vor v zakone) who were allegedly leading gambling and racketeering gangs in Nubarashen and Armavir prisons while acting as "zon nayogh".

The drama began after one of their subordinates refused to follow orders. The thieves began looking for a replacement. The authorities are currently identifying the full circle.

A year ago the government passed a law to ban participation in such underground gangs. Leaders automatically qualify for punishment if they are caught.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051598.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213289 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/213288


A woman is detained in bangladesh district for firing several shots in the air after getting into an argument with his boyfriend.


Education Ministry organizes Youth Forum

The goal is to involve young people in the process of developing the 2021-2025 state policies relating to youth, addressing their questions and concerns, helping them with development. 120 youth will take part in the Saturday forum.


population stats as of January

2,963,300 residents or -3.8K from last year's same period.

Urban 1,895,600

Yerevan 1,091,700

Rural 1,067,700


renovation of vital road networks continue

10km section of M1-Nerqin Sasnashen-Metsadzor road is being rebuilt. It connects several settlements to the M1 highway, southwest of Mt. Aragats. Water networks, electric wiring, and lighting are part of the construction. [no fiber optic?]


copper is the new oil

Move over Ethereum. The price of copper is rising. It costs $10.3K per ton, which is a record. Bloomberg believes all metal prices are rising amid the expectation of global economic recovery.

Armenia hopes to unblock the regional trade routes so it can build a copper processing factory and export higher-value copper-based products instead of raw materials.


IRS is helping prospective investors to understand how taxes & regulations work

Guides were created for those who want to found a business in the tourism and sales industry. How the taxation works, how to import products from EAEU and non-EAEU states, regulations, etc.


COVID stats

3434 tested. 356 infections. 1034 healed. 17 deaths. 10129 active. Over 10K vaccinations.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051580.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051668.html

kindergartens remove admission restrictions amid dropping COVID numbers

Healthcare Ministry gave a green light to remove admission restrictions.


doctors visit Parliament to vaccinate MPs

Dozens of MPs and aides took a shot.


vaccination campaign expands on the streets

The mobile booth installed in Yerevan's Northern Avenue has attracted the attention of tourists as well. The doctors reported long lines in certain hours.

Iranian tourist Mahmoud Dashtban is in Armenia to visit his student son and to explore historical sites and cuisine. "Having a mobile medical unit is a good idea. I decided to use the opportunity, why not," said Mahmoud.

61yo Armen Grigoryan learned about the vaccine site in Northern Avenue and rushed to get a shot. "It's a good concept. At first I thought about visiting a clinic but this is easier."

Harmik Shahnazaryan signed up in the clinic but the line was long so he decided to visit the mobile booth instead.

Before the shot, the patients have their vital signs taken. In the event of irregularities, they undergo thorough lung and heart tests. For now, only Sputnik-V and AstraZeneca are being used, with the Chinese SinoVac on its way. Armenia is negotiating to purchase Johnson & Johnson.

Doctor Davit Petrosyan says it's important to reach a 70% vaccination rate to beat the pandemic.


you can sign up to receive chess tutoring from Levon Aronian

The grandmaster will hold a lecture in Tigran Petrosyan chess house tomorrow.


top-10 bestseller Armenian literature books in April

5) Էս ի՞նչ եք անում, տղերք, by Vazgen Sargsyan

4) 731 օր քեզ համար, by Ta Tever (about young conscript and his girlfriend)

3) Balzak: a dog's tale, by Leon Ness (analyzing humans)

2) Ինձ պիոններ չնվիրես, by Gohar Navasardyan (love story)

1) Կախվածություն by Syune Sevada (collection of various stories)


Armenia to liberalize energy market / direct sales / 1,500MW solar and wind / $1.1b investment / floating solar panels

Several countries are interested in renewable energy projects in Armenia, said Asatryan, the head of a renewable foundation under the Infrastructure Ministry.

Asatryan: Armenia has a big potential. We expect to have 1,000 MW photovoltaic stations in the coming years. It will have 15% share of the energy production in Armenia, which is a lot.

We plan to develop wind energy in Armenia. The 2040 energy vision plans 500 MW in wind farms. They will be a result of government-private cooperation. The price of offered electricity must be competitive.

We plan to liberalize the energy market to bring the system to a new level. Each registered producer will be allowed to sell directly to consumers. It will reduce prices.

Another area is efficiency. Armenia has the potential to have 40% energy efficiency. The average Armenian apartment consumers 2-3 times as much energy as in developed countries.

We need energy production to become part of our daily routine. For this, works are being done in public spaces, large apartment complex buildings, etc.

A project launched in 2016 to assess Armenia's solar energy potential. It was used to attract a foreign investor to build a 55MW solar farm (Masrik-1). It's under construction now and will finish by 2024. The investor is a Spanish firm.

Today there are discussions to have 120MW other farms. Hopefully, we will have relevant auctions next year. We have ongoing auctions for the construction of Ayg-1 and Ayg-2 solar farms, with each being 200MW. The winner will be known in the coming months. The participants are Russian, Chinese, and UAE investors.

The establishment of floating solar farms is being discussed with French StransEnergy(?) company. Together, we asked the French government for a grant and received it. It's for developing floating solar in Armenia. Armenia's water resources will be examined and one pilot station will be built with 151kW capacity as an experiment.

Meanwhile, the legal code has been significantly reformed to allow individuals and businesses to install solar panels. As a result, 4.6K autonomous systems were built. We had a 59% growth in solar production in one year. The industry is rapidly growing.

By 2030, we expect $600m in solar and $500m in windfarm investments.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051621.html https://youtu.be/Y0ZoZNydx6g https://youtu.be/rxbpnMyXsaE

Tags: #SolarEnergy #WindFarm #renewable

today in history

1895: Russian scientist Alexander Popov creates radio

1932: Armenian-American award-winner children's book illustrator Nonny Hogrogian is born

http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Nonny_Hogrogian https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051546.html

ICYM Thursday news


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/n76w9y/may72021_1_armenias_renewable_energy_sector_to/

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