There's something in the air…

As one year anniversary of March 1, 2008 deadly clashes between the opposition protesters and military police forces looms closer, there’s growing tension in the society. Police and opposition mutually warned each other today not to stir further tension.

Snapshot from RFE/RL website on February 27, 2009

Major-General Alik Sargsian, chief of the national police, made clear that the police will not try to disperse thousands of people who are expected to rally on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of the 2008 post-election clashes in Yerevan. “The police are very calm,” he said. “Nothing [bad] is expected on March 1. Our people understand everything.”


Sumgait: videomaterials from Armenian National Archive Released

The Sumgait pogrom (also known as the Sumgait Massacre or February Events) was an Azeri-led pogrom that targeted the Armenian population of the seaside town of Sumgait in Soviet Azerbaijan during February 1988.  The massacre came in light of the Nagorno-Karabakh movement that was gaining traction in the neighboring Armenia SSR. The official death toll released by the Procurator General (tallies were compiled based on lists of named victims) was 32 people (26 Armenians and 6 Azeris). However, eyewitnesses reported a much larger number. Many insist that at least 200, not 30, people were killed.
Videomaterial below comes from the Armenian Natinal Archive.


US State Department Human Rights Report Criticizes Armenia

The U.S. State Department has released it annual survey of human rights conditions around the world. Examining human rights in more than 190 countries during 2008, the report criticizes its usual targets, including Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, North Korea, and China, among many others. The report says “the most serious human rights abuses tended to occur in countries where unaccountable rulers wielded unchecked
power or there was government failure or collapse.”
The section on Armenia of the report is unprecedented by it sheer size! – it’s full of 67 page-long criticism of the Armenia.
For those who don’t have the time and patience to read the whole thing, RFE/RL offers a short account here. Some quotes below:


Dollar panic?

Armenian Dram Memorial © Artur Papyan

The website of Armenia’s Central bank has been posting some really interesting data recently. While the US dollar exchange rate has remained quite steady at about 305 drams per 1 US dollar, the striking differences in the volume of foreign currency trading on 24th, 25th and 26th of February cause real concern.
On February 24, for example, the volume of US dollar trading is reported as $ 14,910,000 US. On 25 – there is a drastic rise to $ 25,348,000 US, and today – all of a sudden – there is a figure of $ 3,292,000 US. Meanwhile, no obvious major factor seems to have impacted this situation. The average balanced exchange rate in all three cases is reported as 305 drams per 1 US dollar.
Meanwhile, people keep telling me there is panic in the banks and currency exchange shops and how lot’s of people are rushing to get rid of their Armenian drams.


HRW: Democracy on Rocky Ground

The 64-page report by the Human Rights Watch details the clashes between police and protesters in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, on March 1, 2008, in the wake of the disputed February 2008 presidential polls. It also documents the ill-treatment of individuals detained in connection with the violence, and lack of comprehensive investigation and accountability for excessive use of force on March 1 and in its aftermath. The report is based on more than 80 interviews carried out over three research missions in Armenia in 2008 and 2009.


21 Years Since The Start of Karabakh Movement

On February 20, 1988 a decision was adopted in the extraordinary  seesion of Nagorno-Karabakh region’s Council of People’s Deputies to present a petition to the government bodies of Azerbaijani and Armenian SSRs to hand over the NKAR to Armenia.
The maps below via Pigh illustrate the situation on this date, which marked the start of the Karabakh Movement and today.


Georgian FM: I don't see why we should speak Russian in friendly Yerevan

Georgia’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze met with President Serzh Sarkisian and his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian during a two-day official visit to Yerevan than began on Friday.
RFE/RL reports that Vashadze and Nalbandian discussed “a number of issues preoccupying Georgia’s Armenian community.” That included the tense situation in Georgia’s Armenian-populated Javakheti region.
“There is no problem of Javakheti, there is a socioeconomic problem in Javakheti, as well as other regions of Georgia,” Vashadze said at an ensuing news conference with Nalbandian. He insisted that the administration of President Mikheil Saakashvili has done a lot to alleviate the plight of the impoverished region’s population in recent years.
“If somebody in Armenia thinks that people are better off in [Georgia’s second largest city of] Kutaisi than in Samtskhe-Javakheti, then they are deeply deluded,” Vashadze said. “I am ready to pay for your trip and take you [to Georgia] and show that.”
Vashadze denied in that regard any political motives behind the recent controversial arrest of two Armenian activists in the regional capital Akhaltsikhe on espionage charges. “Their rights are protected,” he said. “Lawyers are working for them.”
Nalbandian said the Armenian government is monitoring the high-profile case and has already received relevant explanations from the Georgian side. “The matter is being investigated and as Mr. Vashadze said, things will probably clear up after the investigation is over,” he said.
Regnum news agency reports Vashadze saying: “I have no allergy to Russian language, but I don’t see why should I speak Russian in friendly Yerevan.” The Georgian FM, who is a Georgian citizen as well as Russian, persisted in holding the press conference in Georgian.


Police prevent opposition attempt to stage protest action

Armenian Police prevented the attempt of a group of 20-30 young opposition supporters to hold a protest-action in front of Armenia’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) “to mark one year of the elections faked on February 19, 2008.” today.

At 14:30 about 30 young oppositionists came up to CEC building, bearing posters and three-colored flags and chanting, “Serzhik, go away!”

The demonstrators had hardly moved for 10 meters when the representatives of law enforcement bodies rushed to tear the posters and leaflets. They tried to arrest some of the demonstrators but failed due to the interference of opposition politicians – Vladimir Karapetyan, Aram Manukyan and Zaruhi Postanjyan (MP).

The opposition is planning to conduct a big rally and a march on March 1, to commemorate the 10 victims of the events of March 1, 2008. Yerevan Municipality has not authorised the rally and the march, although the opposition claims the Municipality has responded to their notification about the event after more than 72 hours defined by RA Law on “Meetings, Raalies, Protests and Demonstrations”, which would technically mean that the rally is authorised.


What is the EU's Eastern Partnership?

Proposed members of the Eastern Partnership in darker blue, green are partly participating countries. Wikipedia image.

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is an EU project which represents a step change in the EU’s relations with its Eastern Partners as it aims at enhancing cooperation both on bilateral and multilateral level.
The EU already has similar partnership initiatives – the Northern Dimension and the Union for the Mediterranean. The Eastern Partnership was presented by the foreign minister of Poland with assistance from Sweden at a the EU’s General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 26 May 2008. The talks on Eastern Partnerhip intensified after the Russian – Georgian war in August, and naturally it was seen as a politically motivated initiative by Russian politicians.


Naked men in downtown Yerevan… to mark Valentine’s day

UNZIPPED: To mark Valentine’s day, Brabion Flora Service in Yerevan initiated an unprecedented PR action. They announced that all men who will be at their flora salon at 2 pm local time in swimwear or underwear only, will get a free bouquet. The organisers expected 1 or 2 men to turn up, but there were 10 or so there.

More details at Unzipped’s blog. Photos – Photolur, via A1+