Armenian opposition rally banned on March 1

Opposition rally in matenadaran 2008Municipal authorities in Yerevan have banned a rally which the Armenian opposition plans to hold in the city center on the first anniversary of the March 1 deadly clashes sparked by the 2008 presidential election, RFE/RL reports.
The authorities have proposed the opposition to hold the near Yerevan’s “Dynamo” stadium, just outside the city center.
Artak Zeynalyan of “Hanrapetutyun” party had presented a formal notification to the municipality on February 9th about their intention to hold a rally in the area next to Yerevan’s manuscript museum – Matenadaran or the Northern Avenue, to be followed by a march to Myasnikyan statue –  the location of March 1 violent clashes between opposition supporters and the police. Continue reading “Armenian opposition rally banned on March 1”

Turkish university seeking Armenian-speaking instructors in Azerbaijan

NEVŞEHİR Nevşehir University Rector Filiz Kılıç has informed Today’s Zaman, that the university has set up a department of Armenian language and literature but has been unable to offer courses yet as no instructors have been found.

She said that although the Higher Education Board (YÖK) gave its permission to establish the department, the university has had difficulties in finding Armenian-speaking instructors. “We have been unable to find any available candidates in Turkey. We are now looking for instructors in Azerbaijan. The department needs at least three instructors before it can begin accepting students and offering courses,” she said.

Well, I’d be really interested to know – why isn’t the Rector considering the candidacy of one of the estimated 40 to 70 thousand Armenians living in Turkey?

Turkey-led Nagorno-Karabakh plan?

According to the plan, which Hurriet Daily News claims is part of a Turkey brokered Nagorno-Karabakh deal, Armenia would give away some towns surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh region to Azerbaijan in a specific timetable and repatriate Azeris fled the region; administration of NKR would be handed to a provisional body. Furthermore, the newspaper says Karvachar (Kelbajar) would be handed out to Azerbaijan, the railroad and highway between Azerbaijan and Armenia would be opened and international peacekeeprs would be deployed at the border region between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The report has since been called absurd and false by both Armenian and Azerbaijani officials.
One wonders, however, how could all these details emerge out of thin air? Did Hurriet just invent it all? Why would it want to do it? Who do we trust?

Armenian PM: It is in Armenia's interests to introduce CIS regional currency

Tigran SargsyanSpeaking on MIR TV, the Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said Armenia is interested in using the Russian rouble for transactions with CIS countries.
According to Regnum news agency report, Tigran Sargsyan said “a whole package of suggestions” on this subject has been proposed by the Armenian Central bank three years ago. Notably, three years ago Tigran Sargsyan was the head of Armenia’s Central Bank.

Sargsyan underlined, that a project is on the table of the CIS Intergovernmental Bank. According to him, this bank, where are represented all CIS countries’ Central Banks could be an appropriate instrument.

“In case the Central Banks will use these currencies and consider them as own reserve currencies, it will be the first step towards calculations in rubles between CIS countries, and in its turn, it means, that the Central Bank of Armenia will have to recognize ruble as its reserve currency. Hereinafter, our commercial banks can maintaine a ruble accounts in Armenian Central Bank and so on. It is quite a logical scheme, and Armenia is very interested ruble to become a currency, to carry out a transaction not only with Russia but also with CIS other countries. We will make every effort to turn it to reality”, — said Sargsyan.

Interestingly these words come days after the agreement for Russia to provide Armenia with $500 million loan, and also following the report about Gazprom rising gas prices for Armenia from $110 to $154 per thousand cubic meters starting from April 1, 2009. That is: 1) looks like all transactions between Armenia and Russia at this point are done in US dollars; 2) If Russia wanted to push Armenia into using its weakening rouble – this is just the time.
On another note, this might actually prove beneficial – especially using the rouble as reserve currency. I’d rather trust the authoritarian Russian government and it’s rouble – backed by world’s largest oil and gas reserves, than Armenia’s government with it’s pointless struggle to maintain the Armenian dram rate at an illogically high level because a couple of major importer-oligarchs say so.

Updated: Inga and Anush Arshakyans might represent Armenia at Eurovision 2009

Inga AnushInga and Anush Arshakyan sisters known for their singing which they claim is a mix of modern and traditional Armenian music, might represent Armenia at the 54th Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Moscow. The whole thing will be decided on an SMS voting that will be held after a live show on Armenia’s Public TV on February 14, to choose the song that will represent Armenia at Eurovision 2009.
Another candidate is Mher – a Russian-Armenian singer who represented Armenia on “New Wave 2008” music contest last year. Continue reading “Updated: Inga and Anush Arshakyans might represent Armenia at Eurovision 2009”

Aznavour rejected offer to be Armenia's ambassador

AznavourWorld famous French singer of Armenian descent Charles Aznavour has rejected the offer to serve as Armenia’s ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Switzerland. Speaking to El Pais Maestro Aznavour stressed that the reason for his refusal is the desire to remain “a free man”.
“Once the president of Armenia suggested me to be the Ambassador in Geneva, and I was absolutely flattered. That day I went to bed happy, but when I woke up, I realized that accepting this offer I would lose my freedom. If I did not like any decision of the Armenian government, I would feel bad”, Aznavour told El Pais. “I can not lose my freedom for an honorary post”, world famous singer added.
Aznavour was granted Armenian citizenship last December. He is also granted the title of Armenia’s National Hero.

Still no clarity on senior Armenian police officer's murder case


Deputy chief of Armenia’s police Colonel Gevorg Mherian, 34 was shot dead just outside his apartment in Yerevan late on February 3.  President Serzh Sarkisian on Thursday strongly condemned Mheryan’s murder, hinting it may have had to do with his anti-corruption activities.

Mheryan_murder_suspect
Picture of Mheryan murder suspect on Aravot Newspaper, February 6 issue

A generated photo of the suspect has been published by some Armenian newspapers yesterday. Armenian police confirmed that publicized picture is their probable suspect – constructed based on eyewitness accounts, although nobody has been arrested in connection with the killing yet.
Mheryan was heading the passport and visa departments of the police as well as the legal support department.
The passport and visa departments are notorious for their level of corruption and last year a range of high ranking officials from those departments were fired, apparently as a result of Mheryan’s activities.
Admittedly, this murder has caused quite a stirring, I have been getting emails and enquiries from Armenian friends living abroad, asking what’s the story. Well – if you’re asking my opinion – it looks more like vendetta or a trivial case, rather than a big case of corrupt criminals facing the good guys, but media have been paying a disproportionately large amount of attention to this case, perhaps because of lack of any other development in the country. I don’t know. RIP to Mheryan – that’s all I can say for now, hoping for more clarity in the near future.

Armenia hopes lottery will stamp out tax evasion

In a lottery program that will be broadcast live on Public TV at 20:00 Prime Time today – Armenia is offering thousands of dollars in lottery prizes to consumers who take receipts for their purchases to try to tackle rampant tax evasion.
Fiscal LotteryThe initiative began on January 1, after authorities said the threat of prosecution had failed to encourage shopowners and market sellers to install cash registers and provide receipts.
Authorities estimate the grey economy accounts for 30-40 percent of economic activity in Armenia, a landlocked country of 3.2 million people, in transition since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Street sellers are everywhere and markets rarely have cash registers.
Under the new scheme, if customers buy from a trader with a cash register, they stand to win between 5,000 drams (11 pounds) and 500,000 drams. One lucky winner, if the eight-digit number on their receipt matches that drawn in the monthly lottery, will win 5 million drams ($16,000).
The monthly prize fund amounts to a maximum of $380,000. The government hopes the lottery will bring in an extra $17 million per year in tax receipts.
While the resistence is high among small traders and often even big shops and restaurants to install the cash machines and accurately supply receipts, it seems that housewives mostly enjoy the whole process of asking the receipts with the prospect of winning the big prize.
Pretty soon I’m sure, the lovely Armenian tradition to corrupt and spoil everything will surface, and we’ll find out, that the people involved in handing out lotteries have organized everything in a nice scheme to ensure money goes to their relatives, etc.
However, so far I quite like the idea and will definately tune in to Public TV at 8 this evening.

Did Turkish defense company sell equipment to Armenia?

The Armenian police have denied a Turkish newspaper report that they are seeking to buy Turkish-made water cannons and other crowd control equipment.
“Hurriyet” carried a report on Wednesday that the Turkish company ‘Nurol Machinery and Industry” is negotiating with Armenian authorities over the possibility to sell vehicle-mounted water cannons to Armenia.
“Armenia contacted us. Talks have been going on for some time now,” according to Hurriet, the Nurol Machinery’s deputy general manager of marketing, Tanju Torun, said during a demonstration for the firm’s new six-wheeled armored personnel carrier, named “Ejder” (Dragon).
Same day Armenian Police refuted reports, using a strange wording however.  ArmInfo quoted the Head of the Armenian Police Press Service, Lt. Colonel Sayat Shirinyan’s words, calling a “crazy idea” the reports by Azerbaijani APA that Turkish Company ‘Nurol Makina ve Sanayi’ is negotiating with Armenia for purchase and sale of armor used when interfering in public events.
‘It is one of their usual crazy ideas. I assure you that Armenian Police does not need any new water jet cannons’, Head of the Armenian Police Press Service told ArmInfo. He said the given ‘report’ was disseminated in the context of the provocation policy of Armenia’s neighbor in the region.
Looking at the reports I have a strange feeling of being deceived. And I find it strange, that the Armenian police refutes the information by APA, but doesn’t address the Turkish police. Talks about provocation policy of Armenia’s neighbor (which one?), apparently addressing Azerbaijani media, but not the Turkish one. The name of the company also desn’t seem to match, although it might be a problem with translation. At any rate, this is a fishy story. A fishy one indeed.

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