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
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.” Continue reading “There's something in the air…”

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.

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.

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.

Killing of Armenian boy by police sparks rioting in Greece

The murder by police of a 15-year-old boy of Armenian descent in Athens has triggered the worst rioting in Greece over the past two decades.
Rioters have been attacking shops, banks, hotels and offices. Barricades were erected in central streets. Hundreds of young people were burning cars and clashing with police in Athens, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, and in several other cities.
Today Greek Prime Minister has called an emergency council to find ways to end mass protests.
The rioting started after the shooting between the police and a group of young people in one of the central districts in Athens on Saturday, as a result of which a 15-year-old boy, Alexandros Grigoropoulos who is of Armenian descent from mother’s side, was killed.
Greek authorities fear more unrest today as the funeral of the boy killed by police is to take place in Athens.
The circumstances of the shooting remain unclear, but two police officers have been arrested and charged in the shooting.

Constitutional Freedom of Expression forced out of Northern Avenue


It has become obvious that the protesters of Northern Avenue can’t avoid incidents, that pursue an aim to restrict their constitutional right to freely express their opinion. People taken to the police station have become a usual thing, but no one expected the Police to see danger also in the posters fixed on the walls of the buildings.
On August 25, as people of Northern Avenue said at about 10:30 about 20 policemen intruded and started tearing the posters. There were very few people there at that time. Probably it was a planned operation, as the Police had chosen the time when most of the go home or to their workplaces. On hearing this news lots of people hurried to the Northern Avenue after the incident. Some of them said that the reason of this operation were recently added big posters (including the big poster of Robert Kocharyan).
We cannot surely justify the Police operation, as the poster is another way of expressing an opinion and as it’s written in article 27 of the Constitution “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression including freedom to search for, receive and impart information and ideas by any means of information regardless of the state frontiers”.

By Seiv (New author on Ditord)

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.

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.

Pamphlet: "Why judges are afraid, but aren't stupid…"

In the magic land of Armenia, the legal order was proving its efficiency. Trials of law-breakers were proceeding so fast no one could keep track of them.
Not even judges. They could hardly keep order in their courtrooms but they were intent on keeping order in the country.
This time the magic had become more magical than ever. Not a single law enforcement officer had broken the law. On the contrary, order had been disrupted by citizens who did not agree with the authorities; and that was breaking the law. Continue reading “Pamphlet: "Why judges are afraid, but aren't stupid…"”

Police are protecting Armenian citizens from Serzh Sargsyan

Passage on vehicles as well as on foot are restricted in the center of Yerevan. The Opera theatre and virtually all length of Mashtots avenue are blocked within a semi-triangle: police are prohibiting pedastrians and vehicles from entering the restricted are from Pushkin, Abovyan, Moskovyan, Tumanyan and Parpetsi streets.

According to the official note sent out by the Yerevan municipality yesterday, the area will be blocked from 10:30 to 16:00 today, while the presidential inauguration ceremony takes place in the Opera house.

Continue reading “Police are protecting Armenian citizens from Serzh Sargsyan”

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