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Armenia

Saakashvili's miscalculations and war in Ossetia

Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili thought he had picked the perfect time to launch a massive attack against the peaceful population of its breakaway region of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeeping forces last night – the world would be preoccupied with the grand opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, he thought, who would care about the Georgian attempts at Genocide in it’s own territory, right? Need I remind everyone, that even in old Greece wars were halted for the duration of the Olympic games not to overshadow the sacred meaning of the grand tournament? Need I qualify Saakashvili’s ‘Blitz Krig’ immoral, to say the least? And will this dumb macho ever understand, that being the president of Georgia is serious business, not games? I mean – one has to be a complete idiot to think, that:

  • an outgoing US President, a Republican facing a democratic majority in US Parliament will have the political resources to risk a new war after horrors of Iraq;
  • NATO – alliance of countries with stagnating and fuel hungry economies, who have just started to breathe freely because the oil prices have gone down a little bit, will engage in anything against the world’s largest oil and gas exporter, which will surely kick up the energy prices once again and finally kill their economies;
  • that if Russia gets really angry and decides to declare South Ossetia an independent country, UN will be able to do anything, given the Kosovo precedent and the fact that Russia is already quite sick and tired of UN trying to dictate things to it.

Now we have what we have – 1400 reported (unconfirmed) civilian deaths, 10 Russian peacekeepers killed and 30 wounded, heavy fighting on the territory of South Ossetia, Russian tanks and jets entering Georgian territory and according to Georgian claims bombing their military and civilian targets. There are no figures of losses from the Georgian side, but clearly, such an operation will cost them dearly. Saakashvili has already called back the Georgian contingent of 2000 from Iraq and has announced plans of declaring martial law and calling reserves to arms. A full scale war is looming and it doesn’t look like Georgia’s getting any help from anywhere. US President spoke of supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity – but will he dare to translate words into action, given the points I highlighted above? Hardly.
The UN Security Council met late last night only to reveal one more miscalculation of Mr. Saakashvili – with wourld leaders away in Beijing, away from their consultants and intelligence reports, the accusations of Georgian envoy were counterbalanced by the Russian envoy’s equally valid points and counteraccusations, so the Council broke on promise to meet again this morning, not that any results are to be expected anyway.
Meanwhile, we – Armenians have Azerbaijan to worry about – Ilham Aliyev might just decide to take advantage of general disorder in South Caucasus and attempt an attack on Nagorno Karabakh. Armenia’s defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan was in Artaskh yesterday – clearly not a simple sightseeing mission.

Photo: BBC NEWS
Categories
Armenia Sport

Armenian team at the Olympics 2008 in Beijing

The 25 Armenian athletes departing for the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, China, will face the 639-strong Chinese, 596-strong US and 470-strong Russian teams. Given the sheer size of the competing teams and the fact, that our national team brought zero gold medals from the past Olympics in Athens, it’s really hard to believe in the success of our tiny Armenian team.
The Olympic torch will be lit in Beijing on 8th month of year 2008, at 8 seconds, 8 minutes past 8 o’clock of local time – as the figure 8 is considered lucky in China. The motto of the Olympics is – “One world, one dream” and that dream will cost China 44 billion dollars – a record amount to be spent on organization of Olympic games.
The history of independent Armenia has only seen one Olympic champion so far – wrestler Armen Nazaryan won Olympic gold in Atlanta, 1996. Overall Armenia has had 13 Olympic champions and we’ve been the best in wrestling, weightlifting, athletics. Clearly the team sports are not one of our strengths.
The Armenian team this year has 6 weightlifters (Hripsime Khurshudyan, Tigran g. Martirosyan, Gevorg Davtyan, Ara Khachatryan, Tigran V. Martirosyan, Edgar Gevorgyan), 4 boxers (Hovhannes Danielyan, Hrachik Javakhyan, Eduard Hambardzumyan, Andranik Hakobyan), 3 free wrestlers (Martin Berberyan, Suren Markosyan, Harutyun Yenokyan), 6 Greco/Roman wrestlers (Roman Amoyan, Karen Mnatsakanyan, Arman Adikyan, Arsen Julfalakyan, Denis Forov, Yuri Patrikeyev), 2 judoists (Hovhannes Davtyan, Armen Nazaryan), 2 track-and-field athletes (Melik Janyan, Ani Khachikyan), 1 swimmer (Mikayel Koloyan) and 1 shooter (Norayr Bakhtamyan).
On my flight to Moscow on July 31st, I was lucky to be on the same plane with our judo team – the guys were wearing the proud uniform of Armenian Olympics team and were sure of their success. Their coaches, however, were more cautious – the Chineeze team is especially strong they said and they have the mental ability of concentrating for the hour of the match in such a manner, that the results resemble that of using doping means. At any rate, the Armenian team has the high sponsorship of Armenian oligarch, head of Armenian Olympic Committee Gagik Tsarukyan, who has promised money, gifts and honor to Armenian gold winners – along with grave threats to make sure they bring home the Olympic gold. Will this kind of ‘stick and carrot’ policy force the tiny Armenian team bring medals home? We will see soon – shooter Norayr Bakhtamyan, judoist Hovhannes Davtyan (60 kilos) and boxer Andranik Hakobyan (75 kilos) will be first to compete in Beijing on August 9. All we can do now is prey for them and watch the splendid opening ceremony which is due to start soon and will be broadcast on Armenian Public TV. Go Armenians – Stronger, Faster, Higher!!!

Categories
Armenia

Barcamp Central Asia

A team of Armenian bloggers took part in Barcamp Central Asia held in Bishkek, Kyrgizstan, on August 1-3, 2003.

As I’ve written earlier, Bishkek felt very Soviet, the Barcamp, however, didn’t. Over 150 bloggers and internet/media people from Kyrgizstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and even – Spain, Australia, USA took part in this bizzare un-conference.
The Armenian team made a couple of presentations on Barcamp Yerevan and on VideoBlogging in Armenia, as well as hosted a BridgeCamp session (something like Q’n’A) on Internet security and overcoming state censorship. My presentation on Barcamp Yerevan is available for download or viewing online. There are also some photos of Barcamp Central Asia available on my Picasa Web Album.
Overall, the event was just great and now all thoughts are with the upcoming Barcamp Yerevan.

Categories
Armenia Economy Politics

Tigran Sargsyan: new type of politician trying to make the new type of Armenia a reality

Following his appointment to the post of Prime Minister after a disputed presidential election, in a divided society torn apart by political instability and mutual accusations for March 1 violence, Tigran Sargsyan, the former head of Armenia’s Central Bank has been dominating the news and politics – the PM has been making media bubbles by loud and populist actions, like forcing Armenian ministers to come to work at 9 a.m and promising to be more transparent in their work, respond to the needs and inquiries of citizens, etc., etc.

So far Tigran Sargsyan led government has been mostly making loud anti-corruption campaigns – the PM has been promising improvement and government attention to all and everyone he’s met so far: environmentalists, cultural workers, bankers, farmers. He has also been brave in announcing unpopular moves – ending state subsidies for gas which significantly raised the price of the blue fuel for the population, enforcing the usage of control-cash machines in fairs and markets announced yesterday, which will most likely result in protests and more price rises of consumer goods.

The anti-corruption activities among the traffic police and customs, tax-inspection services, were initially perceived as demonstrative, populist and short-term measures, however, they seem to be rendering some positive results so far: a) police seem to have become more restrained in their bribe-collection undertakings and are paying more attention to actually following traffic, although they have still miles to go before we have anything that resembles real police and not mauradeurs and bandits in uniforms; b) my accountant’s recent visit to the tax office was a very positive experience – from what he told me, as it has become easier to submit finance reports at just one location, instead of running around in the tax office banging doors of officials and begging for signatures, which is further confirmed by reports from other people and is starting to inspire with hope; c) some high profile arrests of corrupt police and tax inspection officials took place over the past months, and the last arrest, by looking at the sheer size of the uncovered operations, was clearly a very well connected gang.

At any rate, many are skeptical about the activities of Prime Minister Sargsyan. In his recent speech opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian sharply criticized the authorities and said the anti-corruption actions are mostly staged and pressures are building on small and medium enterprises, while the state-connected businessmen/oligarchs remain in the capacity of ‘untouchables’. Following from the text of Levon Ter-Petrossian’s speech, however, it seems, that even in his criticism of the authorities, the opposition leader acknowledges Tigran Sargsyan’s desire to make genuine change, and puts the blame mostly on Kocharyan appointees like Armen Grigoryan for failures. And while figures for economic growth in Armenia for the first half of the year look promising with 10.3% GDP growth reported so far and economic experts tell me in private conversations, that the tax revenues of the state have been growing at an unprecedented pace, it is still too early to predict what will be the end of the new quest Prime Minister Sargsyan is on.

Categories
Armenia Environment

Armenian Bloggers initiate boycott of Vneshtorgbank

Armenian bloggers have initiated a boycott of VTB Bank Armenia and are inviting everyone to join the action. Better known as “Savings Bank of the Republic of Armenia” (Armsavingsbank) was founded

in 1923 and was the pillar of Soviet Banking system and law obedient Soviet citizens were encouraged to hold their savings there – which was one of the reasons, why after the collapse of the USSR and downfall of the Soviet Ruble it had huge depts to Armenian citizens. In fact it ows me, personally – about 2000 Soviet Rubles. In Kocharyan era the bank was sold to Armenian oligarch of Karabakh origin – Mika Baghdasaryan for a ridiculously small amount of money, to be soon resold to Russia’s Vneshtorgbank.
The couse of blogger discontent lies in the fact, that as part of it’s bid for acquiring the Azerbaijan’s AF-Bank, VTB have forced their Armenian subsidiary to close down their branch in Nagorno-Karabakh. Clearly – this is politics intruding into business, so bloggers are urging everybody to close their accounts at VTB.
Yet another cause of the action is the fact, that VTB is providing loans to the Armenian Copper Program (ACP), which plans to clear-cut over 1,500 acres of Teghut’s forest in order to establish an
open pit strip mining operation for copper and molybdenum ore.
The bloggers are urging everyone to also write letter to VTB indicating these two as reasons for their frustration with bank’s activities, as well as avoid making utility payments via VTB, which is so far one of the prime choices for making water, electricity and communication services payments in Armenia.
The Armenian Observer blog is joining the action and is urging everyone to do so as well.
Categories
Armenia Sport

Vic Darchinyan wins title in second weight division

Armenia’s Vic Darchinyan landed a five punch combination which put Russian Dimitri Kirilov down in the 5th. A straight left put Kirilov down again a few seconds later. Kirilov remained on one knee while referee Earl Brown counted him out.Daily Telegraph has more:

VIC Darchinyan today joined the ranks of Australia’s greatest boxers by demolishing Russian Dimitri Kirilov to win a world title in a second weight division.The Sydney-based power puncher dominated the fight with his harder shots and knocked the champion down twice in the fifth round.
The Armenian-born fighter, who relocated to Sydney in 2000 after the Olympics, improved his professional record to 30-1-1 with 24 KOs.
Darchinyan said he was always confident he would win at least one professional world title after joining the paid ranks.
Kirilov, 29, couldn’t continue after the second knockdown and suffered his fourth defeat in 34 professional fights, dropping to 29-4-1.


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Categories
Armenia

Armenian hostages set free from Azerbaijani side

Today at 12:00 four Armenian hostages Vanik Zmboyan (Gavar), Artyom Zohrabyan (Noraduz), Karen Torosyan (Noraduz) and Aghasi Enokyan (Noraduz) have been set free from Azerbaijani side by the initiatives of the RA Committee dealing with Affairs of Hostages, Lost People (the Chairman of the Committee is the Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan) and the working group adjunct to the committee and Andrzej Kasprchik, the personal representative of the OSCE ongoing president, reported the press secretary of the Defense Ministry Seyran Shahsuvaryan. Criminal procedure started the same day of their return.

Source: Panorama.am, RealArmenia

Categories
Armenia

Bishkek: back in USSR! Waiting for news from Armenia

I avoided flying Aeroflot since 2001 – having had an unforgettably horrible experience of this giant Russan air-company. This year, however, Aeroflot seems to follow me – had to fly to London via Aeroflot this March – with most horrendous experiences of being stuck in Sheremetevo 2 airpot for 18 hours on the way back, with no reasonable explanations. This flight to Blogger Meatup – Barcamp Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan via Airflot again was so bad, that at some point I gave up making a frustrated face and started having a hell of a lot of fun, especially as my collegues, Reporter_Arm and F5Admin were equally frustrated and full of sarcasm.
Airflot deserves a separate entry, so I’ll stop right here, and tell about Bishkek – well, it fells like back in Soviets. One understands just how progressive Armenia is today. Russian is the second state language, Russian mobile operator Megaphone greets you with an SMS welcoming you to the Russian network, not bother to let you know that you’re actually in Kyrgizstan.
The situation is tense – horror stories start from the airport – with a startled competition between private and ‘service’ taxies. The private ones are dangerous for tourists, local friends who came to see us inform us. Don’t walk in the streets after 10 PM, they warn just in case – might be dangerous.
Well, it’s dangerous in daytime too – police are fierce, corrupt and lack sense of humor. Reporter_Arm and myself were stopped when crossing the central square – a fluffy lady in the police uniform smiled a cunning smile when Reporter_Arm said he left his passport in the hotel. The other lady in uniform had a harpy smile too – too bad they didn’t notice our excitement with this sudden happiness of meeting corrupt police and having the opportunity to do the blog-post of all times about them 🙂 Our bold behavior was clearly unexpected – the uniform ladies dangled around in disbelief, seeing that none of us thinks about attempting to bribe them despite obvious signals. The boss – a young officer-surgent of perhaps 12-13 years of age approached with a stern face and put his hand forward for a wet handshake. Spitting across the shoulder, the surgent-boy invited us into a toilet sized box – the police checkpoint on the square under trees, walking with wide open steps, as if something was stuck in his ass.
He looked at my passport with a bunch of visas for what seemed like a century, asking why are we here, what is a barcamp, what type of a conference it is and what are we up to here in Kyrgyzstan, walking without passports with our our Armenian faces. We are from brotherly-soviet-republic we insisted, we have not been bold or mocking with the lady-police, and Reporter_Arm will take his passport along as soon as we get to our hotel, yes Sir! we said. And just in case it didn’t go down with him well enough, that we’re not going to give him any bribes no matter what, I showed him my press-pass and said I’m ready to take a photo or interview him. Reporter_Arm let him know, that he’s from Internews, a journalist. The narrow eyes of the police-boy and the uniform-ladies narrowed down to dangerous sizes – the victims were slipping away! “You guys should give tourists some notes in the airport, stating that they must carry passports at all times”, I advised them with a knowing face – then you’ll have no problem taking them to jail for the violation. We turned our backs to the ‘tourist friendly’ Kyrgiz law-enforcement and half-walked, half-ran away. That’s a way to encourage tourism in a country – we thought. Horrible we thought. Oh how we love Armenia we thought…
…meanwhile in Armenia a major opposition event is scheduled today -still no news on A1plus, and we’re really worried.