2021 September 22

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Daily news wrap-up

News - Sep/22/2021: Yerevan's new skate park & green renovation __ Foreign Affairs: Blinken; OSCE; Lilith Makunts; Russian analyst __ Army training __ Lawsuit against gold mining __ GDP growth revised __ Lab to examine road & bridge quality __ Defense Committee bolola __ Settlement mergers __ Solar+
by ar_david_hh

Your 14-minute Wednesday report in 3660 words.

the world continues to congratulate Armenia on the Independence Day

Read Tuesday news for context, big drone show, concert, etc.

Queen Elizabeth 2.0 congratulated the Armenian people and President Sarkissian. "I am full of hope that after a difficult year we can expect to overcome the global healthcare challenges and have better times in the future."


U.S. Congress members Bob Menendez and Jackie Speier congratulated Armenia and spoke about various humanitarian programs.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063685.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063720.html

Ukraine's Zelensky congratulated Armenia and wished peace and prosperity to the people.


The Armenian flag was raised in front of Ottawa city hall. The mayor and the Armenian ambassador gave speeches, attended by representatives of Canadian MFA, the Armenian church, and the local community.


Cairo tower was lit up in Armenian flag colors. Local Armenian community members rode a boat on the Nile River and recorded the tower.

PHOTO: https://factor.am/419692.html

Armenia's new ambassador to U.S. Lilith Makunts

... held a phone call with David Price, the leader of House Democracy Partnership. She thanked the latter for the efforts to expand ties between the Armenian Parliament and U.S. Congress.

Ambassador Makunts presented the ongoing pro-democratic reforms in Armenia and expressed gratitude for the U.S. aid. Makunts also presented details from the 2020 war and humanitarian problems. The two emphasized the need for Minsk Group to resume negotiations.

Makunts, theh first female ambassador to the U.S., gave an interview to Al Arabiya.

Ambassador said: Armenia was witnessing an economic boom in recent years but the COVID and the 2020 war halted the growth. We're still recovering.

The best way to resolve the Artsakh conflict is with the help of the Minsk Group. They are determined to continue the process.

We appreciate U.S. State Department's statement about the need to return POWs. When Armenia won the war in 1994, we returned every Azeri POW. It's strange that they continue to hold ours.

We have many IDPs who had to move after the war and we're in the process of drafting laws to provide them with aid.

We are not asking for aid in this matter; this is an Armenian issue. Instead, we need help with border demarcation and establishing peace.

Armenia is proud of its democracy. After the war, we decided to increase our diplomatic efforts in all major capitals of the world. Our only goal is peace. We have never launched an attack on any country, and we do not plan to do so. //

https://factor.am/419742.html https://factor.am/419763.html

U.S. State Secretary Blinken and Turkish MFA held an hourlong conversation about the Artsakh conflict

... during the UN General Assembly meeting. Blinken reminded the Turkish colleague about a recent deal to return Armenian POWs in exchange for partial landmine maps.

The State Department will hold low-level meetings with Armenians and Azeris this week to discuss the topic.


Turkish energy firm cancels plans to build a hydropower station in Georgia after months of protests

ENKA Renewables has canceled its $800M contract with the Georgian government, citing violation of conditions and a force-majeure situation. They were supposed to build the Namakhvani Hydro.

Georgian eco-activists, local residents, and civil society groups had opposed its constructrion. There were also complaints about giving too much power to foreign firms in the energy sector.

https://www.rferl.org/a/georgia-protest-hydro-plant/31271407.html https://www.aliq.ge/thurkhakan-enka-ehnkeruthyuneh-xzel-e-vrastani-het-paymanagireh-namaxvanii-hek-eh-chi-karucvi/

Azerbaijan resumed threats about suing Armenia and Sotk gold miner located on the AM-AZ border

Gegharkunik's Sotk mine is partially on the Azeri side of the border after the war. Azerbaijan plans to file a complaint with the ECHR for its pre-war mining.

Some have dismissed the threats, noting that even during USSR the mine was fully operated by Armenia.

It is being operated by a Russian company GeoProMining. They faced difficulties after the war and had to scale down the production, leading to 22% fewer tax revenues from the company in 1H2021.

Overall, Armenia's gold exports declined in 1H, leading to $73M fewer in taxes. 99% of all gold was exported to India.

https://factor.am/419968.html https://hetq.am/hy/article/135678

Azeri resident dies from a landmine explosion

The incident happened near the Tavush borders in the northern part of the AM-AZ border. The resident of Bala Cəfərli tripped the mine while doing agricultural work.

Two days earlier another Azeri resident received wounds in Artsakh's occupied territories.


group of disabled Armenian soldiers will visit Jerusalem for psychological support

Parliamentary Defense committee chief Andranik: recently I sent a letter to the Armenian church in Jerusalem to help us organize a trip for our soldiers. The Patriarch sent his representative today to discuss details.

We'll discuss this with Zinvori Tun and the Yerevan State Medical University administration. This speaks about the important role that the church can play.


army news

During army training, the sabotage-reconnaissance groups carried out a special operation to evacuate the wounded.

Air defense troops conducted exercises to improve communication and check the commanders' skills.

The police department's military wing sent the latest group of troops to guard the borders.

The army and MOD command held a meeting to discuss topics relating to winter preparations, the enforcement of the ban on cellphone use during the reservist training, etc.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/221466 https://youtu.be/fjVcgTGoNl0 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/221434 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/221457

Russian analyst about the role of Russia and Turkey in the Artsakh conflict

Yerevan State University hosted a ranking analyst from Russia's MGIMO University. He was invited to take part in the opening ceremony of a new Russian Research Center in the university.

Opinion by Nikolai Silayev: The 2020 war and its aftermath change the nature of the Russian-Armenian strategic alliance to some extent. Armenia's strength is now more important for Russia.

Russian experts and public circles reacted differently to the decision to send peacekeepers to Artsakh.

The first camp believes this was a diplomatic achievement for Russia and a strengthening of its influence in the region.

The second camp, with the notable figure being Konstantin Nikienko with his "Vedomosti" article, believes this was a diplomatic defeat for Russia and expansion of Turkish influence at the expense of Russia.

The resuming of the war and [Azerbaijan] ignoring Russia's calls for a ceasefire did have a negative impact on Russia's reputation and strength in the region, but Russia has maintained its role as a key military-political force in the region. The difference is now Russia is more actively involved in the conflict.

Turkey is adventurous under Erdogan. They offered Russia to push out OSCE Minsk Group and resolve the conflict themselves.

From the propaganda perspective, the results of the war seem impressive for Turkey, but in reality, they did not gain much with the new order. They don't have peacekeepers in Artsakh and they did not act as a mediator in the settlement. Their 3+3 regional cooperation initiative was ignored by everyone except Azerbaijan.

I think this changes the nature and prospects of Russian-Armenian relations. Artsakh depends on how strong the alliance with Armenia will be, and how strong Armenia itself will be, how strong its economy and military will become. We're talking about long-term processes. //

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063693.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063712.html

Putin appoints Mikayel Aghasandyan as Russia’s permanent representative to CSTO

Mikayel Aghasandyan has served as Ambassador-at-Large at the Russian Foreign Ministry.


CSTO will organize Thunder-2021 special forces training in Armenia

The goal is to combat narco-trafficking in mountainous areas with difficult terrains. Scheduled for Sept. 24-28.


latest news from OSCE Minsk Group

Deputy Russian MFA Rudenko: Russia views Minsk Group as an important tool for the peaceful resolution of the Artsakh conflict. The group is not idle. The contacts continue, even if they aren't widely publicized.

The co-chairs recently visited Baku and Yerevan and held several meetings, including at high levels. The co-chairs plan to meet during the UN General Assembly session in New York. They will meet not only each other but also with MFAs of Armenia and Azerbaijan.


Parliamentary Defense Committee will form its own special group tasked with discussing Syunik borders

The ruling party accepted the opposition's proposal and formed the group to begin its activities next week. The hot topic is road safety.


Parliamentary Defense Committee still does not have a deputy chief

The chief is from the ruling party, so the deputy has to be from the opposition. Kocharyan-ARF alliance nominated the same MP for the fourth time, and was rejected the fourth time today.

HD MP Ghazinyan was first rejected earlier this month after a Q&A held in the committee. The ruling party MPs had also complained that it would be impossible to work with Ghazinyan because of his routine personal insults and "unfounded claims" towards colleagues.

The ruling party MP joked that Kocharyan would nominate Ghazinyan the third time... He has since been nominated the fourth time. During today's nomination discussions, Ghazinyan said he has already answered all the questions from fellow members, and stormed out of the room without waiting for the vote or Q&A, despite some colleagues having questions.

Committee chief QP Andranik to opposition: either bring a new candidate or we will be stuck on this process for 5 years. If you can't find a new candidate, does that mean you are now Mr. Ghazinyan's hostages? Should we liberate you?

Opposition PU MP Abrahamyan: the opposition has already made a political decision regarding the nomination. It is up to you whether he will be appointed. //

All opposition MPs then left the Defense Committee session. The committee chief urged them to return with a different candidate.

Another ruling MP: Mr. Ghazinyan recently gave an interview and said he is enjoying this [rejection] process. Apparently, he is the busiest one in the room so he had to leave, and that we are the lazy ones. I will boycott the appointment process.

https://youtu.be/18hW3sZnzfQ https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063734.html

Armenian Catholic Church meets again, this time in Rome, to elect a leader

Context in July 9 post.

The headquarters of the Armenian Catholic Church is located in Lebanon. The church leader had died on May 25, so the clergy recently gathered to elect a successor. They failed to do so, for the first time in 280 years because "the rules are strict" and the winner failed to receive 2/3rd of votes. They asked the Vatican to intervene and help; the rules could be relaxed from 2/3 to 1/2 of votes.

Today the bishops met again for the second attempt, this time in Rome. They will pray for a few days before holding a vote.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063686.html https://www.ucanews.com/news/armenian-bishops-gather-in-rome-to-elect-new-patriarch/94249

Parliament discussed the upcoming merger of villages into larger communities which will bring the total number of municipalities in Armenia to 78

Read September 14 news for context on how mergers work and what the benefits and concerns are. The bill to merge the remaining 441 settlements has reached the parliament. If approved, they will become 37 municipalities. Around as many have already merged since the process began in 2016.

In the end, Armenia will have Yerevan, Gyumri, 5 ethnic minority settlements, and 71 merged municipalities.

QP MP Ghalumyan: the mergers have a positive impact not only on finances through their concentration and more efficient use, but also from the perspective of human resources.

The example of Berd, Tavush shows us that most problems in the settlement can be resolved after a merger. Today, all villages part of Berd have kindergartens. They have the opportunity to have better public transport and auto parks. //

Five settlements with ethnic minorities will not merge with others in order to maintain a certain level of "autonomy". However, not all MPs like this idea. They believe that these settlements, too, would benefit resource-wise if they merge, while they could still maintaining their culture. "We could implement a differential local government system as a solution."

Kurdish-Armenian MP Knyaz Hasanov: merging minority settlements can have its negative consequences but overall it can be beneficial. For example, 11 minority villages in Aragatsotn provinces were merged. We've seen big results in these past 3 years. No roads were built here for 30 years. Today, 3 of them have renovated words.

I think the villages with predominantly minority populations should not merge for cultural/language reasons, but those with equal minority-Armenian share should be considered. //

Infrastructure Ministry: it shouldn't matter what % of the village population are minorities in order to receive assistance from the state. If necessary, we must amend the law to provide solutions for them to feel safer with the preservation of their cultural heritage. //

The Assyrian community of Dimitrov (Ararat) has asked the government to be added to the list of settlements that won't merge. They acknowledged the economic benefits but said the merger could harm cultural preservation.

Yezidi MP Bakoyan: among the merged settlements in 2016 were Yezidi Alagyazi. Today they are managed more efficiently. Today we have two more Yezidi settlements scheduled for a merger in the Talin region. I think they should merge, but perhaps with each other. The alternative could be excluding them from mergers but providing additional subsidies for development. //

Topic changes to other issues.

HD MP Dokhoyan: some villagers have concerns that if they merge with a small city, their agriculture will suffer because the city administration might not be experienced with dealing with village-related issues.

Deputy Infrastructure Minister: the new municipal council will be larger and include Commission dedicated specifically to agriculture, with representatives from small villages. In any case, there are very few "large" cities in Armenia that don't already deal with agriculture.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063683.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063684.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063689.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063705.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063716.html https://factor.am/419785.html https://youtu.be/CXw8ofjpKAE

propaganda campaign begins in Gyumri ahead of October 17 municipal elections

Several parties will compete to win the city council votes. It's like a mini-Parliamentary election: you choose the council by voting for a party, which then chooses the mayor (but you already know who it is because they lead the campaign).

This is how it will work in other settlements, too. In 2020 the government approved the electoral reforms to apply the proportional voting system to any settlement with over 4,000 population.

>Another important change includes reducing the electoral threshold at the municipal level from 6% for political parties and 8% for electoral alliances to 4% and 6%, respectively. An artificial bonus seat allocation was also removed, and votes for the mayor by city councils will no longer be by secret ballot

https://www.evnreport.com/elections/2021-municipal-elections-in-gyumri-and-other-cities https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063758.html https://www.epde.org/en/news/details/policy-alert-3-armenia-to-expand-proportional-representation-to-municipal-elections-with-tri-partisan-bill.html

Syunik's Goris will also hold mayoral elections. Who is running?

Incumbent mayor Arush Arushanyan Alliance representing the Kocharyan-Serj wing. He is currently under arrest over alleged voter bribery and fraud during June 20 snap elections.

Vladimir Abunts representing the ruling QP party.

Karen Lazaryan representing Levon Ter-Petrosyan's ANC party.


Asian Development Bank has revised its GDP growth forecast for Armenia

It's expected to grow 5.2% instead of 1.8%.

All sectors of the economy grew in 1H, including the investments (+9.5%).


Alexander Myasnikyan square is being rebuilt in Martuni (Gegharkunik)

... as part of a federal-local co-subsidy program. Colorful tiles, curbs, green areas, fountains, cafe area, alleys. Ready in October. "After the completion of the construction works, the square will become one of the most attractive and interesting places in our city," said mayor Avetisyan.


the water network is being rebuilt in Yeranos (Gegharkunik)


sports centner is being renovated in Verin Getashen (Gegharkunik)


VIDEO: Yerevan's new skate park is almost ready / Circular Park is being revamped

It's located in the circular park near the Vardan Mamikonyan statue, behind the church.

Municipality officials: the construction has entered the final phase. The much-anticipated park is a welcome addition for skate lovers whom you'll often see in the park. The 5,000 m^2 area is being revamped with the help of the Ukrainian-Armenian Union. The agreement was signed last year.

The park will have a medical center, skate rental, toilets, new landscaping ideas, solar-powered LED lighting, new irrigation and drainage network.

Cyclists are also welcome. //

The project was made possible after demolishing five abandoned budka-cafes. The area used to look like a homeless encampment zone.

Skating fans have welcomed the new park, saying this sport is gaining popularity in Armenia and is expected to boom after the Olympics committee's decision to add it as an official sport.

The city itself is financing the revamp of other areas of the circular park. "The park is gaining a new look after being abandoned for decades." They're renovating a 16,000 m^2 area. The city conducted land research and identified the areas where it's possible to plant trees more densely.

The circular park has a... circular shape and wraps the city center. It has 6 sections with a total 31ha area. Around 60% of it is occupied by businesses (cafes and stuff). The city has negotiated with many of them to regain control of abandoned areas to beautify them.

https://youtu.be/W4_8W5wLhZM https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063699.html

PHOTO: Yerevan's Northern Avenue has a new statue

Arto Chakmakjian's Walking Man was given a green light in 2019. The new installation grabbed the attention of tourists and locals.

The statue man "walks" in an area where everyone else is walking, get it? IT'S ON A PEDESTRIAN BOULEVARD.

One elderly man had a strong opinion and did not like the fact that it was installed right in front of Yerevan's Key (it's a giant key with Yerevan's logo on top). "This thing has no place in Yerevan center."

Another man said he likes the statue and everything made by Arto Chakmakjian.


5MW solar panel farm will be installed in sunny Gegharkunik's Astghadzor settlement

Mayor Khachatryan: the works began in 2020 and will finish in 2022. Three solar firms were hired to build it. Two of them have completed 80% of work, while the third one is at 20% level.

In the end, we'll have 30 permanent jobs. We hope the solar capacity will increase later. We have the land for it. //


VIDEO: Norway 10-0 Armenia (female World Cup soccer qualifiers)

The team also lost to Poland 1-0. It's a new team. Cut them some slack ;)


COVID stats

4138 tested. 273 infected. 295 healed. 20 deaths. 11072 active.

Sometimes the numbers appear low because testing centers work at reduced capacities on holidays and weekends.


Armenia has the 4th lowest vaccination rate in Asia

... per Asian Development Bank research. It's ahead of Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, and Turkmenistan.


Healthcare Ministry's CDC chief about the state of pandemic:

The situation remains tense. We saw an 18% growth within the past 2 weeks compared to the previous 2 weeks.

R=1.2 for the week. That means if we do nothing, we'll have over 5,900 infections next week (~842/day). Around 30% of them will be hospitalized.

Every wave can be worse than the previous because of mutations. It's necessary to follow the safety rules. Don't waste time attempting to cure yourself or assume your symptoms are caused by something else. See a doctor.

https://www.facebook.com/armenpress/videos/445449663510170/ https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063719.html

famous singer Hayko is in stable condition after being hospitalized with severe COVID

His ex-wife has urged the public not to spread rumors and to respect their son's privacy. "You can pray if you want to help. Thank you." Hayko is not connected to a lung ventilator.

Medical University chief of staff: Hayko is currently fighting against the cruel COVID with the help of specialists. All weapons are being used.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063709.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/221402

workers can't be fired, but they can be fined for not getting a vaccine or PCR test

Labor Ministry official: the labor code does not provide the basis to fire the worker for not complying with the PCR/vaccine requirement.

Healthcare Ministry official: that doesn't mean our inspectors can't issue fines for ignoring the PCR/vaccine requirements, just as issue fines for ignoring mask mandates. The first penalty is $20-$40 for workers and up to $240 for employers. There will be public awareness campaigns.

Justice Ministry official: we drafted an amendment to the labor code that was presented on September 1. It will apply to the public sector. It will require the public employer to prevent the worker from visiting the workplace unless they have PCR/vaccine.

If the public worker ignores the requirements for 30 days in a row or 50 days in a year, the public employer will be required to fire the worker. This only applies to the public sector and is still being discussed. //

You won't be required to submit PCR if you have received one of the doses.

More: https://youtu.be/0DAmpd1ZzzU https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1063724.html https://factor.am/419813.html

Armenians' life expectancy increased from 68 to 76 since the independence

Women 80 (was 72)

Men 72 (was 65)

Armenia 76

Georgia 74

Azerbaijan 73

Turkey, Iran 77

Japan 85 (don't have room to bury so they are forced to live)


VIDEO: new laboratory to test road construction quality

Education Minister visited a new lab that comes equipped with various tools to analyze the quality of road, bridge, cement, asphalt, concrete, etc. This isn't the first such lab, but it has the latest technologies, said the representative.

Minister Dumanyan: today you can already find high-quality roads across Armenia. The new lab will allow construction firms to order the lab to conduct quality studies. You need a high-quality study to have a high-quality road.

https://factor.am/419759.html https://youtu.be/n6CPhmOPPPs https://factor.am/419938.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/221449

the government will cooperate with a retail giant to help unemployed residents find work

Labor Ministry held a meeting with the representative of Carrefour Armenia store to discuss the latter's plan to hire workers. They agreed to reach out to 105 residents who are registered in the Ministry's unemployment database for their retraining and hiring.

This is part of a recent French-Armenia cooperation agreement in which companies agreed to work with the Armenian government on various social projects.


Education Ministry sent representatives to participate in Francophonie meeting held in Bucharest

They'll discuss the 2021-2025 plan of action in the education field, the organization of scientific meetings, etc.


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/ptg6qv/news_sep222021_yerevans_new_skate_park_green/

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