After 10 years of silence Levon Ter-Petrossian spoke, only to say nothing?

Following months and weeks and days of speculation on media and the blogosphere about the possibility of Armenia’s First President Levon Ter-Petrossian’s return to politics he appeared on Yerkir-Media news report on September 21st, the Independence Day to say, that he has not made up his mind yet. “Unless I know, that my steps will be effective, I won’t make the move” the ex-president said. According to Levon Ter-Petrossian, the country is in crises:

“Getting rid of the corruption system, resolution of Kharabakh conflict, putting an end to blockades, establishing of normal, mutually beneficial relations with neighbors, and which is more, the initiative should come from them. We must make the people understand, that by buying the votes for $20-50 from the people, the incumbent authorities are stealing the future of their children, the fate of this country”

Although the former president does not see any solution to Kharabakh problem anymore, the rest of the issues can be resolved by removing the current government, he thinks:

“It is the Kharabakh issue, which in the course of the past years our authorities have led to a hopeless situation. I do not know the way out of this situation”

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“The only way to get rid of current government is by uniting all the political forces, all healthy social, intellectual, spiritual forces around one joint candidate”

While most of the traditional media are left pondering how to react to this news (bravo Yerkir-Media for being fast), bloggers didn’t take long: Continue reading “After 10 years of silence Levon Ter-Petrossian spoke, only to say nothing?”

The Independence Restoration Day

Today is a beutiful day – the proud holiday for the Armenian nation. Today is the 16th anniversary of restoration of Armenia’s Independence, following the Soviet invasion of the 1st Republic.
Officially it is called the Independence Day – and I’m content with that definition as well. In fact – words don’t matter today – what matters, is the feeling, that I can’t live in any place and country, other than Armenia. What matters, is that I’m ready to live, and care, and fight, and work, and build my future in this country. What matters, is the feeling, that this is MINE!
 Happy Independence to you MY ARMENIA!

Transport Hell in Yerevan

Don’t drive in Yerevan, Notes From Hairenik says, because as a result of Due to the numerous road construction projects car-driving “has become very hazardous with cars passing one another indiscriminately and causing near life-threatening accidents”. The root of the problem is corruption in the way the state grant licenses, Christian Garbis speculates, and the solution – take a taxi, don’t waste your nerves:

It is a fact that most motorists on the road today obtain their driver’s licenses by paying a bribe, without passing any tests to prove they are capable of being able to drive. As a result you have insane numbers of drivers operating their vehicles nearly out of control. I for one am going to start taking a taxi to where I work in Arabkir every morning because it is not worth wasting my nerves or my safety driving on these roads. I’ve had it.

Not everyone can afford taxi though, and Zara from Life around me, is more for the shuttle buses (minivans, often referred to as Marshrutkas), which cost 100 drams (about 30 cents) 5-10 times less then taxi, are usually fully packed, drive unsafely, and have an wide range of disadvantages, 5 of which are analyzed at legth in Zara’s post:

Well, actually I like traveling to any place by marshutkas and I take a taxi on rare occasions and also I don’t want to drive, especially in this manic city…
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Yeah, I know, marshutkas are not that safe, some people call them “100-dram-killers”. However, I don’t mind other people around me, I rather prefer it, especially when so funny incidents and conversations happen in them. And but for several things, marshutkas would be my adorable means of transportation.
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Sure, there are many other disadvantages, but I’ll leave them up to you. And anyways, I still prefer marshutkas!

One thing I know for sure – I will walk on every possible occasion, only to avoid getting into traffic hell. I can’t afford a car yet, but its definitely much better then the public transport. Taxis are a good solution, but they are not for everyone, as an average trip costs $3 US so travelling to work and back in taxi every day will take about $140 US, which is more then half of reported average salary in Armenia. And best of all is – working and sleeping in one location and not going anywhere if you can. It really is traffic hell in Yerevan these days, and I don’t see any tendencies for improvement for the nearest 3-4 months.

Armenia Becomes Dangerous for Journalists: Hovhannes Galajyan Attacked Again

Editor of opposition newspaper “Iskakan Iravunk” Hovanes Galajyan, was attacked on September 15, and hospitalized with brain concussion. This second attack against Hovhannes Galajyan is one of the many attacks against journalists in Armenia, and the fact it has repeated by possibly the same attackers against Hovhannes Galajyan reminds us again, that none of the ofgenders in this case, as well as in other attacks (e.g. burning of Ara Saghatelyan’s car) has been adequately punished so far.

Armenia's 2.5 Billion Budget for 2008 – A Realistic One

Traditionally, the amount of attention given to the State Budget in Armenia is nil. This important document, which sets out exactly how the country will develop in the next year, defines the mechanisms of how the state policies and activities will impact every single citizen in the country, is usually presented as an indecipherable book of figures, which is hardly ever explained to the average citizen. This year however, everything changed with the sensational announcement of Prime Minister Serge Sargsyan: the state budget will be 2.5 billion dollars, which is nearly double of the state budget in 2007.

[September 17, 2007 |Lragir]It became known from Serge Sargsyan’s speech a few days ago that the Armenian government is going to present a draft budget of 2.5 billion dollars to the National Assembly for 2008. It is about 1.5 times bigger than the budget of 2007. The first question that occurs after hearing this number is where the government’s ambitions come from. The question certainly has an answer that appears first: Serge Sargsyan desires to become president of Armenia in 2008, and a state budget of 2.5 billion dollars is an excellent election campaign for the prime minister aspiring to presidency.

As my collegue Gegham Vardanyan, accredited journalist in the NA noted, that it had seemed as though Serge Sargsyan had come to the NA that day only to announce this figure, and a couple of others along the way: the military budget planned for 2008 will be equal to that of Armenia’s state budget in 1998 (which means something around 400 million dollars), and the claims of Azerbaijan to make their military budget equal to the total state budget of Armenia have failed. The last one sounds childish for a Prime-Minister and former Defense Minister to announce if you ask me, but oh well!
There have been a number of publications in the newspapers, as well as the blogosphere discussing the unexpected figure. Despite the Prime-Minister’s words, that he is not and adventurer, and the budget is a realistic one, nobody seems to have taken it seriously. The 2008 Presidential Election Monitor blog, for example, has seen it as the start of the pre-eleciton campaign.
Despite the analyses in the media and the widespread scepticism, I find this article in Lragir.am worth every attention, as it steps behind the curtain of disbelief, and tries to see what will happen if the budget is indeed a realistic one, and if, as the Prime-Minister noted, there is a need to increase the state revenues by acheiving almost a two-fold increase in tax revenues.

The point is that with the methods and approaches of tax collection the so-called battle against black economy will clamp down on the retailers rather than the owners of markets, and after paying the last thing they have the independent small and medium-sized businesses which are not in the domain of any oligarch will be unable to bear the tax load any more and will have to sell their businesses to the oligarch or make an arrangement with them to work under the protection of that particular clan. It means that any such performed budget will push Armenia closer towards a clannish economy, and one day the society will wish it had no budget and trouble.

VivaCell Sold to Russians after All

VivaCell management announcing decision to sell to MTS,

Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Ani Matevosyan, 2007

[17 September 2007 |ARKA – News] On September 14, the CIS largest mobile communication operator, “Mobile Telesystems” OJSC (MTS), announced the purchase of 80% of the authorized capital of the International Cell Holding Ltd., which is indirect owner of Armenia‘s leading mobile communication operator K-Telecom, with its VivaCell brand.
The option agreement on the purchase and sale of the rest 20% share of K-Telecom is to take effect no sooner than July 2010 to remain in force until 2012.
The transaction amount is, $310 mln, including $50mln to be paid to the seller during 2008-2012, provided that it ensures the targeted proceeds and revenue performance of the K-Telecom Company.
The MTS will also allocate a $140mln credit to K-Telecom to pay off the current debts and fund investment programs.
The K-Telecom CJSC covers Armenia‘s entire territory and is licensed for the GSM 900/1800 standard until 2019. By July 1, 2007, the company had had 986,000 clients, which, by the MTS’s estimates, is 66% of the market.

As with so many other deals of strategic importance happening in Armenia, the handover of VivaCell to Russians also happened with the minimum amount of transparency, under conditions of maximal secrecy, and with a timing, which just makes you wonder! (two months before President Robert Kocharian, which is gossiped to be the real owner of VivaCell is due to leave office). Onnik Krikoryan has more:

Now it appears that VivaCell’s sale can only raise further questions at a time when the Armenian president, Robert Kocharian, is rumored to be selling off his assets ahead of the election next year which will see him leave office. Under the Armenian Constitution, Kocharian can not stay in office for a third term.

Armenia To Grant Dual Citizenship From December

In issue #167, 14/09/2007, AZG Armenian Daily reports, that the Prime-Minister Serge Sargsian has instructed to set up the schedule for adopting relevant legislation:

By the instructions of RA PM Serge Sargsian, the schedule for adopting relevant legislative order for applying for dual citizenship has been already set up. The procedure will last will first decade of the upcoming December. RA Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian assured. He added that the schedule includes 13 sub-legislative acts. The relevant amendments had been made to RA law “On Citizenship” that envisage the same rights, plenipotentiaries and exclusions for dual citizens as those granted to RA citizens and set by the international right.

Following yesterday’s announcement by PM Sargsian about state plans to implement a record – 2.5 billion budget, raise pensions and his sole domination of TV news reports, consistently noted and analyzed by Onnik Krikoryan at his new 2008 Presidential Election Monitor blog, this bit of news fits in nicely into the unofficial campaign by the PM for trying to please everyone, including the influential Armenian diaspora.
Looking from another point of view, I have to remember, that during the past elections there were claims by Nikol Pashinyan, one of the leaders of the Impeachment block, that the Government (meaning the Republican party), have issued thousands of brand new passports on the names of dead people and absentees, and have used mobile voting squads to vote using the stolen identities. No need to say, that dual citizenship creates exactly the same type of forgery possibilities.
The issue of dual citizenship, as well as that of absentee voting has been seen as a threat to the integrity of Armenian elections since 2005, when the draft of the new Constitution including such a provision, was being debated. The matter has been discussed at length in a number of earlier posts by Onnik Kriroryan in relation to 2007 Parliamentary Elections. And although I don’t think there will be a significant number of dual citizenships even if the process really starts on December 2007, the fact, that the plans are underway to set up the mechanism exactly two months before the election, and that the process is initiated by Serge Sargsyan, is somehow suspicious to me.

Cyberwar Chronicles: here we go again – Armenian sites under attack

Following the protest action against the destruction of Christian cemetery in Baku, Kornelij Glas, who was the first Armenian blogger to raise alarm, reports today, that an Azeri hacker has contacted him on ICQ and informed, that the mentioned hacker has broken into a number of Aremenian websites. The hacker has presented it this highly immoral and criminal act as revenge to the posts Kornelij Glas has published about the destruction of Christian cemetery in Baku in the following links: 1, 2, 3.
Following is a list, which the hostile hacker claims have been bloken into:

http://www.psrc.am/am/
http://www.wvarmenia.am/en/
http://test.armstat.am/en/
http://youthpolicy.am/am/
http://nature-ic.am/ccarmenia/
http://noravank.am
http://www.education2015.am
http://www.touroperator.am
http://www.counterpart.am/en/
http://www.tufenkianfoundation.am
http://www.aquatek.am/ru/?nid=7
http://elections.a1plus.am/am/

Update: after finding out the reasons of the attack Kornelij Glas has posted a YouTube video depicting the destruction of the Christian cemetery, to demonstrate to the Azeri hacker, that his efforts were pointless. ArmeniaHouse.org has the following to add:

According to Kornelij an Azerbaijani hacker had hacked number of Armenian web sites as a response to the posts he wrote about the destruction of the cemetery. They haven’t learnt so far that trying to supress the truth hurts them (Turks) even more.

Stop Destruction of Christian Cemeteries in Azerbaijan

Following the destruction of Armenian cemetery in Jugha Azerbaijan have turned to the destruction of Molokan (Russian) cemetery.
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On September 4, 2007 Katya Karagadayeva was the first to report the tragic news to Molokan.org:

“My mother, Antonina Fedorovna Kudelina, is from a Molokan family. She grew up in the ‘Molokanka’ district of Baku. Her parents (my grandparents), grandparents, aunts and uncles are buried in that cemetery. Today I spoke with my cousin, Roman Kudelin, who flew urgently from Moscow to Baku to save our family’s graves. He was able to move three of five coffins.
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I realize that a cemetery in a central part of a large city is an inconvenience, I just hate the disrespectful way Baku administration chose to go about getting rid of it. Is there “

Having experienced the same last year, during the destruction of medieval Armenian cemetery, Armenian bloggers were quick to respond, Kornelij Glas being the first to ring the bell.
Armenianhouse.org is more eloquent, and calling Armenians, Russians, Greeks, Assyrians, Jews to protest, and expressing surprise at the silence of Russian MFA.
Condemning notes come from Shadows of Moonlight, And nothing else matters…UzoghArmenain Breaking News. The latter writes:

Under the pretext of building a highway Baku demolishes a Christian cemetery (the Nariman cemetery), where Armenians, Jews and Russians were buried.
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Every day the Russian Embassy in Azerbaijan received complaint about the decision of Baku authorities to replace the graves of the Nariman cemetery also known as Montinskoe or Armenian cemetery, where Russians, Jews, Tatars, Georgians and Armenians were buried. Nariman cemetery director Kyamran Mammadov assures that “the replacement of graves is conducted at the state’s expense…

The main body of information about the cemetary updated as the issue develops can be found here. I can only add, that despite my firm belief, that the dead should not hinder the live people to live, I am starting to see dangerous tendencies of destroying already second Christian (non-muslim) cemetery in Azerbaijan, and the disrespectful manner in which this CoE member country that at least nominally acknoledges freedom of religion and respect for non-muslims is carrying out such actions is most disturbing.

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