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Tuesday, July 18, 2017 Russian-Armenian Investors Said To Finance First Projects In Armenia July 18, 2017 . Anush Muradian Armenia - Prime Minister Karen Karapetian (C) talks to Russian-Armenian businessmen at the official launch of their Investors Club of Armenia fund in Yerevan, 25Mar2017. An investment fund set up recently by three dozen wealthy Russian entrepreneurs of Armenian descent will start financing business projects in Armenia this autumn, a senior government official in Yerevan said on Tuesday. The fund called the Investors Club of Armenia (ICA) was officially set up in March at a ceremony in Yerevan attended by Prime Minister Karen Karapetian. The latter has warm rapports with its key founders, notably the Armenian-born billionaire Samvel Karapetian (no relation). The Armenian government signed a memorandum of understanding with the ICA in April. Minister for Economic Development Suren Karayan said at the time that the fund's investments in the Armenian economy should total around $300 million this year. According to one of Karayan's deputies, Hovannes Azizian, the ICO will likely launch its first investment projects in October or November. "The projects to be implemented by the Club will mainly target the areas of energy and renewable energy," he told a news conference. "Now discussions are underway on the possibility of the Club's involvement in some manufacturing sectors as well." Azizian said that the Russian-Armenian investors are particularly interested in hydropower and solar energy. The government, he said, expects them to finance, among other things, the construction of medium-sized hydroelectric plants. One of those plants would be built in Samvel Karapetian's native Lori province. The Armenian Energy Ministry estimates that work on the 76-megawatt facility would cost roughly $150 million. Azizian would not be drawn on the amount of funding which the ICA has set aside for its first projects. "When the projects are finalized we will give information about the investment package," he said. Foreign direct investment in the Armenian economy has rapidly declined in recent years. Government data shows that it stood at a modest $130 million in 2016. Prime Minister Karapetian has repeatedly promised to attract more than $3 billion in investments in the coming years since he was appointed as prime minister in September. The former business executive, who lived and worked in Russia from 2011-2016, has said that at least $830 million of the sum will be invested in 2017. Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) awards a state medal to Russian-Armenian businessman Samvel Karapetian, Yerevan, 26Sep2015. The Russian-Armenian businessmen voiced strong support for the 53-year-old premier's ambitious reform agenda when he paid an official visit to Moscow in January. Samvel Karapetian reaffirmed that backing at the official launch of the ICA in March. In addition to his extensive business interests in Russia, the tycoon owns Armenia's national electric utility, largest thermal power plant, and a shopping mall in Yerevan. His Tashir Group is due to open another sprawling trade center in the Armenian capital in September. According to "Forbes" magazine estimates, Samvel Karapetian's personal fortune is currently worth $3.5billion, meaning that he is most probably the richest ethnic Armenian in the world. Dashnaks To Discuss 2018 Government With Sarkisian July 18, 2017 . Sargis Harutyunyan Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian greets leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation before concluding a new power-sharing agreement with them in Yerevan, 11May2017. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said on Tuesday it will hold discussions with President Serzh Sarkisian soon on who will be Armenia's prime minister after his decade-long presidency ends next April. Dashnaktsutyun is a junior partner in Sarkisian's coalition government, having held three ministerial posts for more than a year. It extended its power-sharing deal with Sarkisian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) following parliamentary elections held in April. "Naturally, the question of who will be prime minister is important to Dashnaktsutyun, but there is still time [left before April 2018,]" said Aghvan Vartanian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader. "In my view, the challenges facing the country have two main components," he told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). "One of them is security, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and the like, while the other the economy # I think that there is enough room here for every person willing to serve the country." "Also, our coalition agreement makes it clear that the Republican Party has the exclusive right to nominate the prime minister's candidacy. This issue will be discussed when the time is right," added Vartanian. In televised remarks aired over the weekend, Sarkisian again declined to clarify whether he plans to become prime minister or replace Prime Minister Karen Karapetian by someone else after serving out his final presidential term. But he praised economic policies pursued by Karapetian's cabinet. Vartanian said that Dashnaktsutyun is also "satisfied" with the current government's track record so far. "Quite a bit of things have already been done in terms of both security and socioeconomic issues," he said. The veteran politician spoke the day after a joint meeting of Dashnaktsutyun's worldwide Bureau and governing body in Armenia held in Yerevan. The meeting adopted a statement which is due to be publicized on Wednesday. Dashnaktsutyun controls 7 seats in Armenia's 105-member parliament, compared with 58 seats held by the HHK. Jailed Oppositionists' Lawyers Face Disciplinary Action July 18, 2017 . Karlen Aslanian Armenia - Arrested members of an armed opposition group that seized a police station in July 2016 go on trial in Yerevan, 8Jun2017. Armenia's national bar association may take disciplinary action against two lawyers accused by law-enforcement authorities of misconduct relating to the ongoing trials of radical opposition leader Zhirayr Sefilian and his supporters. The lawyers, Mushegh Shushanian and Arayik Papikian, represent Sefilian and some of the members of his Founding Parliament movement who seized a police station in Yerevan last year. The Chamber of Advocates has launched disciplinary proceedings against Shushanian and Papikian at the request of the Armenian police and a senior prosecutor respectively. It will decide whether they violated Armenian laws and statues regulating the work of lawyers. In a letter to the chamber, the national police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, claimed that Shushanian recently made offensive comments about police officers which he said could "damage public trust in the entire law-enforcement system." In particular, Gasparian cited an interview with RFE/RL's Armenian service in which Shushanian denounced the as police as an "armed gang" ready to execute "any criminal order." Shushanian on Tuesday stood by his statements and accused the authorities of seeking to muzzle him. "This is interference in my freedom of expression, which is aimed at inhibiting the performance of my professional duties," he told RFE/RL's Armenian service. "They are trying to silence lawyers so that lawyers do not make statements or evaluations." The prosecutors' complaint against the other lawyer, Papikian, stems from his June 29 Facebook post which accused police officers of torturing one of the arrested Founding Parliament gunmen in the basement of a Yerevan court where he has been standing trial together with 17 other men. "The riposte will be just and very painful for the regime," read that statement.It also charged that the Armenian police serve a "regime that usurped power from the people." Papikian too was unrepentant about his actions. He said the disciplinary action sought by the authorities is part of what he called serious violations of the due process in the two high-profile cases. Press Review July 18, 2017 Armenia -- Newspapers for press review illustration, Yerevan, 12Jul2016 "Zhoghovurd" comments on the first anniversary of the violent seizure by armed opposition members of a police station in Yerevan, saying that the Armenian authorities have not drawn "appropriate conclusions" from the bloodshed and failed to implement "radical changes" in the country. The paper says that President Serzh Sarkisian only sacked Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian in September for creating an "imitation of change" in the run-up to the April 2017 parliamentary elections. It says that Abrahamian's successor, Karen Karapetian, instilled some hope in the public and distracted it from grave socioeconomic problems. Holding on to power remains Sarkisian's supreme goal, concludes the paper. "Hraparak" says that armed struggle against the ruling regime is totally legitimate for "some circles" in Armenia. "It's just that when armed struggle ends in success it is called a revolution," writes the paper. "But when it ends in failure it is turned into a coup and its participants end up in jail. Proponents of armed struggle must be conscious of this simple truth and meekly carry the heavy burden of imprisonment, condemnation and trials which the members of the Sasna Tsrer [armed opposition group] and their relatives now do. It is nave to expect clemency, civilized treatment or soft punishment from the individuals against whom they took up arms." "Aravot" reacts to the controversy sparked by the Russian authorities' decision to ban citizens of Armenia and other countries where Russian is not an official language from working as drivers in Russia. "Apparently an official status of the Russian language improves drivers' professional skills and they no longer need to pass driving tests in Russia," the paper comments with sarcasm. "Is this creating inconvenience for our drivers? Corresponding state bodies of Armenia must negotiate [with the Russians] to overcome those problems." The paper also says that the Russian ban is dealing a serious blow to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). It wonders whether Moscow will eventually drop its ambitious Eurasian project. "Hayots Ashkhar" reports on a renewed increase in imports of goods to Armenia which comes amid government pledges to facilitate import substitution by domestic manufacturers. The paper singles out a 70 percent year-on-year rise in imports of Turkish goods which was registered by Armenia's National Statistical Service (NSS) in the first five months of this year. It is very concerned about this trend. (Tigran Avetisian) Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2017 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
Wednesday, July 19, 2017 Karabakh Leader Reelected July 19, 2017 . Hovannes Movsisian Czech Republic - Karabakh President Bako Sahakian gives an interview to RFE/RL's Armenian service in Prague, 12Jun2016. Lawmakers in Nagorno-Karabakh voted on Wednesday to extend the decade-long rule of its president, Bako Sahakian, by three years, a move criticized by his political opponents. Sahakian, 56, was reelected at the end of his second five-year term in office. He was not allowed to stay in power longer before Karabakh enacted a new constitution in a referendum held in February. The new constitution calls for the Armenian-populated region's transition by 2020 to a fully presidential system of government which will lead to the abolition of the post of prime minister. The authorities in Stepanakert say this change will put Karabakh in a better position to cope with the unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan. Their opponents maintain, however, Sahakian is simply keen to cling to power. Karabakh will be governed by an interim president until 2020. Sahakian's candidacy for that post was backed by 28 of the 33 members of the local parliament representing three political parties allied to him. His sole challenger, former Stepanakert Mayor Eduard Aghabekian, got four votes. Addressing the legislature before the vote, Sahakian said that Karabakh will need continued "stability" during the three-year transition period. He also defended his track record, saying that his administration has strengthened democracy and sped up economic growth in the last ten years. By contrast, Aghabekian made a case for a leadership change in Stepanakert, saying that countries stagnate when they are ruled by the same person or government for too long. The opposition candidate, who leads a party called Movement-88, also said that the current authorities have for years ignored his calls for strengthening the Karabakh Armenian military in the face of a growing military threat from Azerbaijan. Accordingly, he criticized their handling of the April 2016 heavy fighting with Azerbaijani forces. Sahakian countered that Azerbaijani offensives launched at two sections of the Karabakh "line of contact" last year failed to achieve their main objectives. He also said that the Karabakh government is now addressing "problems" exposed by the four-day hostilities and will continue to strengthen Karabakh's armed forces. Incidentally, Sahakian met with Armenia's Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian in Stepanakert on Monday. His press office said that they discussed "issues related to army building and cooperation between the two Armenian states in this sphere." Yerevan Market Bulldozed To Make Way For Luxury Properties July 19, 2017 . Sisak Gabrielian Armenia -- The Table-top Sale in Firdousi street in downtown Yerevan in beeing demolished. 19July, 2017 Authorities in Yerevan began demolishing an open-air market on Wednesday as part of a planned redevelopment of a surrounding old neighborhood in the city center strongly resisted by local residents and traders. The market located just a few hundred meters from Yerevan's central Republic Square has functioned since the early 1990s. Hundreds of people have sold cheap clothing and other consumer goods on the narrow Firdousi Street that cuts through the neighborhood made up of mostly old houses. In 2007, the Armenian government allowed a private company to tear down the entire area and construct expensive office and apartment buildings there. The ensuing global financial crisis, which hit Armenia's construction sector particularly hard, put those plans on hold. And the company called Glendale Hills went bankrupt two years ago. Last year, the Yerevan Mayor's Office announced that another private developer is now interested in the project and began preparations for the demolitions, sparking street protests from the owners of several dozen local houses. Market traders also joined the protests, saying that the municipality is depriving them of their livelihood. The municipality offered the traders commercial space in other markets in Yerevan. Most of them rejected that offer, saying that they would have to pay higher rent and earn less revenue. Municipality officials and workers sent by the still unknown developer met with fierce resistance from the traders on Wednesday morning when they arrived at the Firdousi Street market to start the demolitions. They overcame the resistance only after bringing in heavy machinery. The traders protested angrily as their market stalls and small warehouses were bulldozed in the following hours. "Thank you for leaving our children's parents without work," cried one woman. The Firdousi Street houses have been spared demolition for the time being. Their owners fear that the authorities are preparing the ground for forcing them to sell their homes at a fraction of their market value."They are getting to us step by step," one of them told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). Some locals also complained that representatives of the construction company have still not visited them to discuss the amount of compensations that could be paid to them. The municipality has not even disclosed the company's name so far. Later on Wednesday, Armenia's human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, asked the municipality to suspend the demolitions until the traders are relocated to other markets. Opposition Gunmen's Trial Still In Turmoil July 19, 2017 . Naira Bulghadarian Armenia - A chaotic scene at the trial of arrested radical opposition members in Yerevan, 28Jun2017. The trial of the key members of an armed opposition that seized a police station in Yerevan last year remained effectively paralyzed on Wednesday by continuing wrangling between the presiding judge and defense lawyers. Two of the lawyers, Arayik Papikian and Mushegh Shushanian, were unable to attend the latest court hearing in the high-profile trial after refusing to let court bailiffs check the content of their bags on security grounds. They and their colleagues say that this amounts to a search not allowed by Armenian law. The judge, Artur Gabrielian, sanctioned Papikian and Shushanian and said he will also ask Armenia's Chamber of Advocates to take disciplinary action against them for what he considers contempt of court. Three other attorneys walked out of the courtroom in protest, leading Gabrielian to again cut short the proceedings. The judge has regularly clashed with these and other lawyers for similar reasons since the start of the trial in early June. He has also barred most of the 14 defendants from the courtroom because of their refusal stand up and thus show respect for the district court. The lawyers claim that the authorities deliberately provoked the turmoil to hold the trial in their and their clients' absence. Papikian and Shushanian are already facing disciplinary proceedings launched by the Chamber of Advocates at the request of law-enforcement authorities. They stem, in part, from Shushanian's characterization of the Armenian police as an "armed gang" ready to execute "any criminal order." Adding to the tensions was the alleged beating by police officers of four of the arrested gunmen following a court hearing on June 28. Armenia's Special Investigative Service (SIS) pledged to investigate the incident condemned by local and international human rights group. The opposition group seized the police base in Yerevan's Erebuni district in June 2016. It demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian free its jailed leader Zhirayr Sefilian and step down. The gunmen laid down their arms following a two-week standoff with Armenian security forces which left three police officers dead. Russia Told To Scrap Ban On Armenian Driving Licenses July 19, 2017 . Lusine Musayelian Russia -- A road police officer blocks off the traffic on the Moscow Ring Automobile Road (MKAD) on the suburbs of Moscow, December 4, 2015 The executive body of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has reportedly told Russia to reverse its controversial decision to stop recognizing the validity of driving licenses issued by Armenia, a member of the Russian-led trade bloc. A Russian law which took effect on June 1 banned foreign nationals with driving licenses issued by their home countries from working as drivers in Russia. The State Duma, the Russian lower house of parliament, passed last week another law which waived the restriction for citizens of those countries, including EEU members Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, where the Russian language has an official legal status. Armenia is not one of those countries, meaning that a large number of its migrant workers driving trucks, taxis and other vehicles in Russia now risk losing their jobs. Some of them are said to have already been forced to return home. The Armenian parliament speaker, Ara Babloyan, raised the matter with his Russian counterpart, Vyacheslav Volodin, when they met in Moscow on Monday. Volodin responded by suggesting that Armenia adopt Russian as its second official language in order to circumvent the ban. Volodin's remark caused outrage in Yerevan, with local opposition politicians, media commentators and intellectuals accusing Moscow of meddling in Armenia's internal affairs. Armen Ashotian, a senior lawmaker who accompanied Babloyan on the trip to the Russian capital, rushed to assure them that Armenian authorities have no intention to change a constitutional provision stipulating that Armenia is the country's sole official language. The Moscow daily "Kommersant" reported afterwards that the Eurasian Economic Commission, the EEU's executive body, has urged the Russian government to ensure that the ban on foreign driving licenses does not apply to any EEU member state, including Armenia. It quoted the head of the commission, Oleg Pankratov, as saying that it runs counter to EEU regulations on a common labor market set up by Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Press Review July 19, 2017 "Hraparak" reports on controversy sparked by Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin's calls for Armenia's to give Russian the status of a second official language in return for Moscow continuing to recognize Armenian driver licenses. The paper quotes Viktor Katvalian, director of the Language Institute of Armenian National Academy of Sciences, as criticizing the suggestion. He says that an ethnically homogenous country like Armenia does not need a second official language. It is enough to continue teaching the Russian language in Armenian schools, says Katvalian. He goes on to denounce Volodin's proposal as an "inroad on our sovereignty, our language and our statehood." "Haykakan Zhamanak" reports, meanwhile, that the executive body of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), has told Moscow to amend the new Russian law stipulating that driver licenses issued by EEU member states where Russian is not an official language are no longer valid in Russia. Kyrgyzstan's Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Pankratov, who also holds a senior position in the Eurasian Economic Commission, reportedly said that the law runs counter to the EEU's labor regulations mandatory for Russia and other member states. According to Lragir.am, Vazgen Manukian, chairman of Armenia's presidential Public Council, has added his voice to the criticism of Volodin's statement. "English has spread and become an international language," Manukian is quoted as saying. "In India, for example, it's a second official language. But nobody has imposed that. Life has led to that. It is very ridiculous when one country tries to impose its language on another with artificial methods, using driver licenses as an excuse. But although that [statement] was made by a high-ranking official, it's hard to consider it Russia's official view." Interviewed by "Hayots Ashkhar," Vazgen Safarian of Armenia's Union of Domestic Manufacturers, comments on a sharp rise Armenia's imports from Turkey recorded by the National Statistical Service in the first five months of this year. "Officially, we have no trade with Turkey but imports from Turkey are quite large: more than $200 million," says Safarian. "Why? Because Turkish goods, especially agricultural products, are cheap." He calls on the Armenian government to impose additional customs duties on "those imported goods that are also manufactured in Armenia." (Tigran Avetisian) Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2017 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
Thursday, July 20, 2017 Azerbaijan Sentences Russian-Israeli Blogger Over Trips To Karabakh July 20, 2017 Azerbaijan -- Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin is escorted by security officers at Baku airport after being extradited from Belarus, 7Feb2017. A court in Azerbaijan on Thursday sentenced Alexander Lapshin, a Russian-Israeli blogger controversially arrested last December, to three years in prison on a charge stemming from his visits to Nagorno-Karabakh. The court ruled that Lapshin illegally crossed Azerbaijan's internationally recognized borders when he travelled to Karabakh via Armenia in 2011 and 2012.But it also cleared him of making "public appeals against the state," a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison in Azerbaijan. Lapshin, who has Israeli, Russian and Ukrainian citizenships, gave detailed accounts of those trips on his Russian-language travel blog. The 40-year-old was detained in Belarus's capital Minsk on an Azerbaijani arrest warrant. The Belarusian authorities extradited him to Azerbaijan in February, prompting strong criticism from Armenia and Russia. The extradition was also condemned by international watchdogs such as Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Amnesty demanded the blogger's immediate release, saying that he is "at risk of torture and other ill-treatment as well as an unfair trial." The Azerbaijani government rejected the criticism. Lapshin pleaded not guilty to the accusations levelled against him and denied forging "criminal links with Armenian authorities" in his final statement at his trial on Wednesday.At the same time, he said he now understands that his trips to Karabakh offended many Azerbaijanis. According to the TASS news agency, Lapshin's lawyer said he is satisfied with the verdict and hopes that his client will soon be handed over to Russia, Israel or Ukraine. Years before his arrest, Lapshin was placed on an official Azerbaijani blacklist of several hundred non-Armenian foreigners who have visited Karabakh without Baku's permission. Nevertheless, he was able to travel to Azerbaijan in June 2016 and post a series of detailed blog entries on his mixed impressions about the oil-rich country. In particular, Lapshin suggested that the Azerbaijani authorities have squandered their massive oil revenues. "Despite 25 years of oil bonanza, the country is hardly different from neighboring Armenia and Georgia in terms of socioeconomic development," he wrote. In a June 2016 post, Lapshin also claimed that he is receiving angry comments and even death threats from Azerbaijanis accusing him of working for Armenian intelligence. He laughed off those accusations. Ally Defends Karabakh Leader's Reelection July 20, 2017 . Hovannes Movsisian Nagorno-Karabakh - Ashot Ghulyan, speaker of the Nagorno Karabakh parliament, speaks to RFE/RL in Stepanakert, 20Jul2017 The controversial reelection of Bako Sahakian, Nagorno-Karabakh's president, was democratic and legitimate, a senior official in Stepanakert insisted on Thursday. Sahakian was due to serve out his second and final term in office this summer. The Karabakh parliament decided on Wednesday, however, that he will remain in power as an interim president until the unrecognized republic completes its transition to a fully presidential system of government in 2020. The transition is mandated by Karabakh's new constitution enacted earlier this year amid strong opposition criticism. Ashot Ghulian, the Karabakh parliament speaker, said the fact that Sahakian was reelected by local lawmakers, rather than voters, must not call into question his legitimacy. "We can give many examples of how presidents and parliaments are elected in various countries," Ghulian told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). "The modes of election are different. I believe that in our case it was done under a much more transparent, free and democratic procedure." Ghulian also insisted that the prolongation of Sahakian's decade-long rule will not undermine democracy in Karabakh. "Democracy is not just about elections," he said. "Democracy is also about the transparency of a country's political system. The processes that took place before yesterday's reelection of the president by the parliament were very transparent, open and understandable to everyone." Sahakian was backed on Wednesday by 28 members of the 33-seat legislature representing three political parties loyal to him. One of those parties is led by Ghulian. Some opposition figures in Stepanakert claim that the Karabakh leader plans to participate in the next presidential elections due in 2020 and further extend his rule. Ghulian did not confirm or deny that, saying that the issue is "not on any party's agenda" yet. "I don't think that any of the parties is now thinking about 2020 and has already made that decision," added the Karabakh official. Armenia To Ratify New Defense Accord With Russia July 20, 2017 . Sargis Harutyunyan Armenia - Russian soldiers march during official ceremonies in Yerevan to mark the 72nd anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, 9May2017. The Armenian government paved the way on Thursday for the parliamentary ratification of an agreement with Russia to boost a joint Russian-Armenian military force that was created more than a decade ago. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and his Armenian counterpart Vigen Sargsian signed the agreement on "the united group of troops of the two countries" after talks held in Moscow last November. The agreement clarifies and upgrades the mission of the joint force comprising troops from the Russian military base in Armenia and the Armenian army's Fifth Corps. In particular, it stipulates that the commander of the Russian-Armenian contingent will be appointed by the Armenian army's commander-in-chief. Also, the commander will be subordinate to the chief of the Armenian army staff in times of peace. He may report to the head of Russia's Southern Military District in case of a war or imminent military aggression against Armenia or Russia. "The main task of the United Group of Troops is to identify preparation of military aggression against Armenia and Russia in a timely manner and to repel it jointly with the armed forces of Armenia and Russia," Defense Minister Sargsian said in November. The deal was ratified by Russia's lower and upper houses of parliament on July 14 and July 19 respectively. Prime Minister Karen Karapetian's government formally recommended its ratification by the Armenian parliament, which now seems a forgone conclusion. Alexander Iskandarian, director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, said that the signing of the Russian-Armenian accord was largely a formality that underscored close military ties between the two states. "This agreement is one of the formats for comprehensive interaction between the Russian and Armenian armed forces which helps to ensure Armenia's protection against Turkey," Iskandarian told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). The Armenian military will thus be able to continue to concentrate on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he said. Another analyst, Armen Grigorian, suggested that the deal was initiated by the Russians. He said they plan to use to increase "Russian influence in Armenia." Press Review July 20, 2017 Armenia -- Newspapers for press review illustration, Yerevan, 12Jul2016 "Hraparak" expresses concern at the start of a planned demolition of an old neighborhood in the center of Yerevan that has also been home to an open-air market. The paper notes that many residents of other neighborhoods were evicted from their homes and insufficiently compensated in the 2000s. "No new avenue, no matter how beautiful it is, is worth the pain and suffering of a single citizen," it says. "There will be more such [redevelopment] projects # but it's wrong to hurt people." "Aravot" is also concerned about the plight of people living and selling cheap goods along Firdousi Street in downtown Yerevan. "The Firdousi market was certainly not an architectural masterpiece," writes the paper. "Nor did it have a cultural value. It was an ugly, narrow and unclean corridor which must not exist in the capital, especially in its center. Traders were warned beforehand that the market will be inevitably dismantled. But they were offered to move to other markets where they would be charged more for commercial space." The paper believes that municipal authorities should have somehow compensated the traders before starting to bulldoze their market stalls on Wednesday. "But most importantly, they should have decided before the demolitions what should be built there, found an appropriate developer and informed Yerevan residents about that," it says. "Haykakan Zhamanak" sees "mainly political reasons" for Russia's decision to stop recognizing Armenian driving licenses of migrants working as drivers in Russia. "These actions taken by the Russian authorities result from Armenia's strong economic dependence on that country," writes the paper. "It is because of that dependence that Armenia has become a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) serving Russia's interests. It is now evident that the EEU can offer no positive prospects to Armenia's economy." The paper says at the same time that Armenia cannot afford to try to quickly leave the Russian-led trade bloc. In that case, it says, Russia would retaliate by closing its market for Armenian goods. "The coming years will be decisive for both the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process and the choice of the course of further development of the second Armenian state," writes "Hayots Ashkhar." The paper says they will also be important for reducing the Azerbaijani military threat. "In terms of solving these issues, the short but intense and bloody war of April 2016 was an important lesson," it says. "It exposed the Armenian people's level of organization and will to confront the enemy as well as the need for greater coordination of the work of various state bodies." (Tigran Avetisian) Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2017 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
Friday, July 21, 2017 Karabakh Leader `Unlikely' To Seek Reelection In 2020 July 21, 2017 . Hovannes Movsisian Nagorno-Karabakh - Vitali Balasanian, secretary of Karabakh's Security Council, is interviewed by RFE/RL in Stepanakert, 21Jul2017. Bako Sahakian, Nagorno-Karabakh's president, is unlikely seek another term in the next presidential election due in 2020, a retired Karabakh army general currently allied to him said on Friday. "I don't think that the current president will run in 2020," said Vitali Balasanian, the secretary of Karabakh's Security Council. "It's up to him to decide. But my personal view is that I can't imagine that," Balasanian told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in Stepanakert. Earlier this week, the Karabakh parliament controversially extended Sahakian's rule by electing him as the unrecognized republic's interim president. He will serve at least until Karabakh completes in 2020 its transition to a fully presidential system of government in line with a new constitution enacted earlier this year. The previous constitution barred Sahakian from seeking a third term. But under the current one, he can run in the next presidential election slated for 2020. The Karabakh leader has not ruled out his participation in the vote, fueling more criticism of his constitutional reform by local opposition figures. Asked whether he himself could run for president in 2020, Balasanian said: "Time will tell. It's too early say yes or no now." A former deputy commander of Karabakh's Armenian-backed army, Balasanian was the main opposition candidate in the last presidential election held in 2012. Official election results gave him around 33 percent of the vote, compared with more than 66 percent polled by Sahakian. Balasanian described the election as "free but not fair" at the time, accusing the incumbent of abusing administrative resources. He agreed to become the secretary of Sahakian's Security Council last year. The 58-year-old retired general is one of Karabakh's most prominent veterans of the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. He commanded Karabakh Armenians forces in the eastern Askeran district throughout the war. Armenia Needs Eurasian Union Membership, Insists Ruling Party July 21, 2017 Armenia - Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesman for the ruling Republican Party, at a news conference in Yerevan, 14May2017. President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party (HHK) has dismissed an opposition leader's calls for Armenia to leave the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Edmon Marukian, a pro-Western leader of the opposition Yelk alliance, advocated an exit from the EEU last week after Russia stopped recognizing the validity of driving licenses issued by Armenia and other countries where Russian is not an official language. A Russian law which took effect on June 1 banned foreign nationals with driving licenses issued by their home countries from working as drivers in Russia. The State Duma, the Russian lower house of parliament, passed last week another law which waived the restriction for citizens of those countries, including EEU members Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, where the Russian language has an official status. Marukian said that the Russian laws run counter to EEU regulations on a common labor market set up by the bloc's member states. The EEU's executive body has reportedly given the same assessment, telling Moscow to scrap the ban on Armenian driving licenses. Reacting to Marukian's statements, HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov said late on Thursday: "If there are political forces that agitate for the exit from the EEU, they had better come up with concrete alternatives and facts, rather than speak on the emotional plane." Sharmazanov claimed that the Sarkisian administration's controversial decision to join the EEU was based on "clear calculations as to what our farmers, investors, tourism sector and the economy [as a whole] will gain." He said that the Armenian economy has already benefited from better access to the Russian and other ex-Soviet markets. "We have increased our exports by 23 percent [in 2017] and a large part of them went to EEU countries," Sharmazanov told reporters. "The number of tourists [visiting Armenia] has gone up by about 30 percent. We must not make political statements without serious corroborations." Sarkisian unexpectedly announced his decision to seek membership in the EEU in September 2013 shortly after Armenia and the European Union completed negotiations on a far-reaching Association Agreement. The foreign policy U-turn, which scuttled the planned deal with the EU, was widely attributed to Russian pressure. Marukian's stance on the EEU has not yet been officially backed by Yelk's leadership. The bloc consisting of three opposition parties holds 9 seats in Armenia's 105-member parliament. U.S. Watchdog Urges Baku To Free Russian-Israeli Blogger July 21, 2017 Azerbaijan -- Russian-Israeli blogger Aleksandr Lapshin is escorted upon his landing in Baku after being extradicted from Belarus to Azerbaijan, February 7, 2017 The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based watchdog, has again called for the immediate release of Russian-Israeli blogger Aleksandr Lapshin, who has been imprisoned in Azerbaijan for his visits to Nagorno-Karabakh. "Aleksandr Lapshin should not be in jail for traveling to a disputed region," the CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Nina Ognianova, said after an Azerbaijani court sentenced Lapshin to three years in prison on Thursday. "We call on authorities in Baku not to contest the journalist's appeal and to release him unconditionally," a CPJ statement quoted her as saying. The court ruled that Lapshin illegally crossed Azerbaijan's internationally recognized borders when he travelled to Karabakh via Armenia in 2011 and 2012. But it cleared him of making "public appeals against the state," a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison in Azerbaijan. The 40-year-old blogger, who has Israeli, Russian and Ukrainian citizenships, was detained in Belarus's capital Minsk on an Azerbaijani arrest warrant last December. The Belarusian authorities extradited him to Azerbaijan in February, prompting strong criticism from Armenia and Russia. The CPJ demanded Lapshin's release shortly before the extradition. "Writers should never be imprisoned for expressing their views," it said at the time. Azerbaijan has repeatedly rejected the international criticism. Meanwhile, the Russian Justice Ministry said on Friday that it is ready to seek Lapshin's extradition to Russia if he expresses such a desire. Russia's human rights ombudsperson, Tatyana Moskalkova, said for her part that talks on the blogger's handover to Moscow have already begun. She did not elaborate. Armenian IT Growth Hits Record High July 21, 2017 . Sargis Harutyunyan Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian visits the offices of a new IT company in Yerevan, 17Jun2017. The rapid growth of Armenia's information technology (IT) sector employing thousands of engineers accelerated to 38.2 percent last, according to government data. The tech industry had already expanded by an average of over 20 percent annually in the previous decade, making it the fastest-growing sector of the Armenian economy. According to government estimates, the country's 500 or so mostly small and medium-sized IT firms earned over $550 million in combined revenue in 2015. The sector is dominated by the Armenian branches of U.S. tech giants like as Synopsys, National Instruments, Mentor Graphics and VMware. But its steady expansion is also increasingly driven by homegrown Armenian companies. Armenia - Prime Minister Karen Karapetian visits the offices of the Armenian tech company PicsArt in Yerevan, 24Mar2017. The most successful of these startups is PicsArt, one of the world's leading mobile photo editing and sharing applications. The company now has more than 350 employees in Armenia and boasts 90 million active monthly users worldwide. Another, smaller startup founded in 2013 attracted $5 million in funding from two U.S. venture capital firms earlier this year. The company called Teamable develops special software used by businesses for hiring skilled workers. Like PicsArt, Teamable has offices not only in Yerevan but also in San Francisco. Another Armenian firm, SoloLearn, won this month the Grand Prize of Facebook's annual "Apps of the Year" event, which attracted 900 submissions from 87 countries. SoloLearn offers a free online app for people interested in learning computer programming. Karen Vartanian, chairman of Armenia's Union of Information Technology Enterprises (UITE), stressed the growing importance of such startups. "Our local products are increasingly emerging and proving a success in the international market," he told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). Vahan Shakarian, the executive director of the Yerevan-based company Technology and Science Dynamics manufacturing smartphones and tablet computers, said the sector's has been rapidly developing because it is export-oriented. He also cautioned: "Booms are possible in economics. They key thing is to at least stay at the same level after they are over. It's quite a challenge." Armenia - Children at the Gyumri branch of the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, 13May2016. For Vartanian, the key challenge is a continuing lack of skilled IT personnel in Armenia. "Our growth is now stunted by a serious shortage of personnel," he said. "The education system is in tatters." Industry executives have long complained about the inadequate professional level of many graduates of IT departments of Armenia universities. According to their estimates, there are now between 2,000 and 4,000 job vacancies in the sector employing about 15,000 people. Successive Armenian governments have pledged to tackle this problem. Vartanian insisted, however, that there is still no "comprehensive, strategic cooperation" on the matter between the authorities and IT companies. In January, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian met with a team of government officials and tech executives that proposed a wide-ranging reform of engineering education in Armenia. One of those executives said only half of 1,300 IT students graduating from Armenian universities each year are qualified enough to work in the sector without undergoing further training. Press Review July 21, 2017 "Zhoghovurd" condemns the judges presiding over the ongoing three trials of radical opposition members accused of plotting or attempting armed revolts against Armenia's leadership. The paper claims that instead of administering justice they are helping the authorities to take "political revenge." It also accuses the judges of acting on government orders to create "inhuman conditions" for the defendants. In an interview with "Aravot," the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party (HHK), Vahram Baghdasarian, downplays the significance of Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin's calls for Armenia to adopt Russian as its second official language. "The Russian Duma speaker was not aware that students in Armenia's schools are taught the Russian language from the second grade," says Baghdasarian. "There is no issue of making Russian a state language in Armenia," he adds. "The [Armenian] language is our national value. There can be only one official language in the Republic of Armenia: Armenian. This is our position, which was presented by us and accepted by our Russian partners." Baghdasarian goes on to dismiss calls by a leader of the opposition Yelk alliance, Edmon Marukian, for Armenia's withdrawal from the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). "We cannot harm a family that was created with great difficulties," he says. "We have made a lot of progress in that family and must stick with it." "Haykakan Zhamanak" reports that the Armenian government on Thursday granted tax breaks to a private agricultural firm whose shareholders include two sons of Vartan Harutiunian, the head of the State Revenue Committee (SRC). Each of them holds a 17 percent stake in the company called Green Farmer. The latter has pledged to invest more than $2 million in new fruit orchards to be created in Armenia's Ararat province. "Once again, the government is giving privileges to a company belonging to relatives of a high-ranking official," complains the paper. (Tigran Avetisian) Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2017 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
Monday, Yerevan `Unconvinced' By Russian Explanations For Arms Sales To Baku . Sargis Harutyunyan Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during a meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, July 21, 2017 Russia's official explanations for its large-scale arms supplies to Azerbaijan criticized by Armenia are unconvincing, a senior Armenian official said over the weekend. "In our official and unofficial contacts with our Russian partners, continuing Russian arms supplies to Azerbaijan remains the thorniest issue on the agenda of Russian-Armenian relations," said Armen Ashotian, the pro-government chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations. "The Russian side's justifications are certainly discussed by us and they are not convincing," Ashotian told reporters. He cited Russian officials' claims that the multimillion-dollar arms sales are commercial deals that also allow Moscow to hold Baku in check and boost stability in the region. Armenia - Armen Ashotian, chairman of the parliament committee on foreign relations, speaks in Yerevan, 22Jul2017. Russia has sold around $5 billion worth of tanks, artillery systems and other weapons to Azerbaijan in line with defense contracts mostly signed in 2009-2011. The arms deliveries continued even after Armenian leaders strongly criticized them following Azerbaijan's April 2016 offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh. Late last month, a Russian cargo ship delivered a new batch of anti-tank missile systems to Baku's Caspian Sea port. And earlier this month, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry announced that it has received hundreds of Russian thermobaric rockets for TOS-1A multiple-launch systems which it had purchased from Moscow earlier. Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the lucrative arms deals with Baku after holding talks with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in Moscow last August. Putin implied that oil-rich Azerbaijan could have bought offensive weapons from other nations. He also argued that Russia has long been providing substantial military aid to Armenia. Incidentally, Putin met with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi on Friday. In his opening remarks at the meeting, Putin mentioned lingering tensions in the region and said he will explore with Aliyev ways of easing them. The spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Eduard Sharmazanov, criticized the continuing Russian arms sales to Baku on July 12. Sharmazanov made clear at the same time that they will not undermine Armenia's close military ties with Russia. Ashotian, who is also the HHK's deputy chairman, likewise argued that disagreements are inevitable even between allies like Russia and Armenia. "Armenia does not have an absolute convergence of foreign policy agendas with any country except the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic," he said. Russia has long been Armenia's principal supplier of weapons and ammunition. The Armenian military has received Russian weapons at discounted prices or even for free. Finance Minister Vartan Aramian revealed on July 16 that Armenia is discussing with Russia the possibility of obtaining another loan which it would spend on buying Russian weapons. Moscow already lent Yerevan $200 million for arms acquisitions from Russian manufacturers two years ago. Coup Suspect Denies Plotting To Kill Armenian President . Ruzanna Stepanian Armenia - Vahan Shirkhanian, a former deputy prime minister, at a news conference in Yerevan, 10Feb2012. A veteran Armenian politician arrested in late 2015 strongly denies plotting to assassinate President Serzh Sarkisian and seize power together with members of a clandestine militant group, his lawyer said on Monday. Vahan Shirkhanian, a former deputy defense minister, is one of the 20 individuals who went on trial on coup charges last December. Most of them were detained in November 2015 in a dawn raid on their hideout in Yerevan. Armenian security forces found large quantities of weapons and explosives stashed there. More than two dozen other people, among them Shirkhanian, were arrested in the following weeks. Some of them were subsequently released pending investigation. The arrested group was apparently led by Artur Vartanian, a 35-year-old obscure man who reportedly lived in Spain until his return to Armenia in April 2015. Armenia's National Security Service (NSS) claims that the core members of Vartanian's group called Hayots Vahan Gund (Armenian Shield Regiment) underwent secret military training in an Armenian village in August-September 2015. It says that Vartanian and his associates drew up detailed plans for the seizure of the presidential administration, government, parliament, Constitutional Court and state television buildings in Yerevan. Armenia - An alleged 2015 photograph of members of an Armenian militant group arrested on coup charges. According to the indictment, Shirkhanian agreed to participate in the alleged plot and suggested that the armed group assassinate President Sarkisian, instead of focusing on the seizure of the key state buildings.The 70-year-old denies the accusations as politically motivated, according to his lawyer, Hayk Alumian. Alumian said that the criminal case against Shirkhanian is based on what he considers illegal wiretaps of his client's face-to-face conversation with Vartanian. "The content [of the conversation] is equivocal and can be interpreted in different ways," he told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). "Mr. Shirkhanian says that he had no conversations of that kind. I don't exclude that the recording was somehow doctored." The lawyer also insisted that while Shirkhanian did meet the alleged ringleader and speak with him about political issues their conversation cannot be construed as an anti-government conspiracy."Mr. Shirkhanian never took Artur Vartanian and his statements seriously," he said. Vartanian also rejects the coup charges. His lawyer, Levon Baghdasarian, did not deny last year that Vartanian set up the shadowy group and acquired firearms and explosives for it. But Baghdasarian insisted that his client never intended to seize government buildings in Yerevan. Armenia - Artur Vartanian, the main defendant in the trial of 20 people accused of plotting a coup d tat, at a courtroom in Yerevan, 17Mar2017. Shirkhanian was a prominent member of Armenia's first post-Communist government that came to power in 1990. He served as deputy defense minister before being appointed in June 1999 as deputy prime minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian. Shirkhanian became particularly influential in the wake of the October 1999 armed attack on the Armenian parliament which left Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other officials dead. He led government factions that suspected then President Robert Kocharian of masterminding the killings and tried unsuccessfully to unseat him. Kocharian's eventual victory in the power struggle resulted in Shirkhanian's resignation in May 2000. Shirkhanian supported, as a senior member of a small opposition party, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian's failed bid to return to power in the 2008 presidential election. He split from that party in 2010. Police Accused Of Covering Up 2016 Violence Against Journalists . Artak Hambardzumian Armenia - Riot police disperse protesters in Yerevan's Sari Tagh neighborhood, 29Jul2016. Armenian press freedom groups accused law-enforcement authorities on Monday of failing to punish the individuals who attacked journalists during last summer's anti-government unrest in Yerevan. One of them, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech, argued that no police officer has been prosecuted in connection with the attacks that occurred during the July 2016 clashes between security forces and radical opposition supporters who rallied in support of gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan. According to the head of the watchdog, Ashot Melikian, 27 reporters were injured at the time. At least 14 of them, including three RFE/RL reporters, were ambushed by a large group of men wielding sticks as riot police dispersed protesters in the city's Sari Tagh neighborhood overlooking the besieged police facility. Human rights activists suggested at the time that the attackers were plainclothes officers or government loyalists. President Serzh Sarkisian publicly apologized for the violence, while urging the injured reporters to "forget about those incidents." For his part, the chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, ordered his subordinates to identify and track down "civilians" who he claimed beat up the journalists. Armenia -- Robert Ananyan, a reporter for A1Plus.am injured during unrest in Sari Tagh, speaks to RFE/RL in hospital, 2Aug2016 Melikian said that the authorities have since pressed criminal charges only against one of the nine civilian men who they say were responsible for the violence.Seven of them have been fined and avoided prosecution, he said. "Civilians could not have done that," Melikian told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). "So we continue to insist that dozens of police officers who abused their powers must be held accountable." Arevhat Grigorian, an expert with the Yerevan Press Club, charged that the authorities are deliberately dragging out a criminal investigation into the Sari Tagh violence to make the journalists and their employers lose interest in the case. Marut Vanian was one of the several reporters who were seriously injured in Sari Tagh on July 29, 2016 and required hospitalization. Vanian has still not fully recovered from his injuries. Nor has he been compensated for two cameras which he says were smashed by the men who beat him up. "Nobody has been identified and I don't expect that something real will be done about [the violence,]" said Vanian. Sarkisian To Visit Iran For Presidential Inauguration Armenia - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian at the start of an official visit to Yerevan, 21Dec2016. President Serzh Sarkisian will fly to Tehran on August 5 to attend the inauguration ceremony of his recently reelected Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, it was announced on Monday. Rouhani will be sworn in for a second term more than two months after winning Iran's presidential election. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that "many" foreign leaders and dignitaries are due to attend the ceremony. Sarkisian expressed confidence that "traditionally warm and friendly Armenian-Iranian relations will continue to develop and strengthen in all areas" when he congratulated Rouhani on his reelection in May. The Armenian leader was also present at Rouhani's first inauguration in August 2013. Armenia has long maintained close relations with Iran, one of the landlocked South Caucasus state's two commercial conduits to the outside world. Rouhani underscored that rapport when he paid an official visit to Yerevan last December. He said Iran will increase exports of natural gas to Armenia and deepen broader economic ties with its Christian neighbor. Armenia plans to launch a "free economic zone" near its border with Iran before the end of this year. After talks with Sarkisian, the Iranian president also called for a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Sarkisian, for his part, again praised Tehran's "balanced" stance on the unresolved conflict. Press Review (Saturday, July 22) "Hraparak" reports that Hrachya Harutiunian, an Armenian truck driver who caused a deadly traffic accident in Russia in 2013, has been handed over to Armenia to serve the rest of his almost 7-year prison sentence there. Harutiunian's degrading treatment by Russian authorities after his arrest caused street protests in Yerevan at the time. "The Russian authorities drew some conclusions from those protests," says the paper. "But the process of his extradition has taken longer than expected." "Aravot" comments on Armenian government plans to introduce fines for people dropping cigarette butts in the streets. The paper wonders how the fines will be enforced. "Will a police officer be monitoring every smoker, waiting until they finish smoking, and, depending on where they drop the cigarette butt, deciding whether or not to fine them?" it says. "But the idea itself is certainly good." Accordingly, the paper hits out at political and civic activists who are already decrying the government plans. "Hayots Ashkhar" continues to discuss the uproar that was caused by Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin's calls for Armenia to adopt Russian as a second official language. "In recent days, so much has been said and written in our country about the incident that occurred at the meeting [in Moscow] between the heads of Russia's and Armenia's legislatures that one has the impression that nothing new can be said on the subject," writes the paper. It downplays the significance of Volodin's comments, saying that Moscow had also made similar suggestions to other member states of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The "artificial rumpus" caused by them in Armenia is therefore unjustified, it says. "After all, the Armenian side officially responded [to Volodin] in an appropriate manner. Further discussions would have made sense only if there had been serious disagreements and different views [on the language issue] within Armenia," argues "Hayots Ashkhar." Citing an Armenian lawyer, "Haykakan Zhamanak" says that of all 47 member states of the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights has received the largest per-capita number of lawsuits from Armenia. The paper says the lawyer, Vahe Grigorian, believes that this fact speaks volumes about a lack of public trust in the Armenian judiciary. (Tigran Avetisian) Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2017 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has no regrets at joining Manchester United despite having to deal with accusations he is not the same footballer he was at his former club, Borussia Dortmund.
Mkhitaryan joined last summer, having been voted Bundesliga player of the year the previous season. He struggled initially to establish himself under José Mourinho and, after having to wait until the derby with Manchester City on 10 September for his full debut, the forward was withdrawn at half-time.
The Armenian then had to wait until 2 November to play again. Despite this, Mkhitaryan ended the season strongly, scoring 12 times, including the second in the 2-0 Europa League final victory against Ajax. “For sure I will be a better player for this experience,” the 28‑year‑old said. “Some people say, ‘You have been another player in Dortmund’, but I’m saying I never regret coming here. I am very happy.
“Last year, with my difficulties, they helped me a lot. I could stay more strong in my mind, like mentally. I never said that I had hard times here. It shows that you are strong enough to win them over or not. I think I have done everything to work hard, to show everyone I can play and that I can do my best for the team.
“In these kind of moments, if you are giving up you are going to lose the meaning of the life. I mean you have to stay positive, you have to stay strong and work very hard because in one click everything can change and that’s what happened.”
At Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk, another of his former clubs, Mkhitaryan improved in the second year. “I am expecting something good [again]. Because I know that you can always do better and better, there is no limit. I will try my best.”
Mourinho was unhappy with the amount of goals Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard contributed last season. “The manager in general is saying that we need to do more,” he said. “Everyone understands that because we know this season is going to be a little bit harder because we are not going to play in the Europa League we are going to play in the Champions League, which is different. We are working very hard on it and we are sure we can have good results.
“It doesn’t matter how you did last year. It has been a good year for us, for me as well, because we won three titles. But I know for this upcoming season I can do better. I’m working hard and I know that I will achieve more. I can improve. I’m not saying just goals or assists. As well the playing style, the understanding between my team-mates, I mean everything.”
Mourinho has not told Mkhitaryan, who often operates wide but can also play at No10, his preferred position. “Not yet because I am ready to play wherever he wants me to play. I don’t have a preference.”
YEREVAN, Armenia, July 23 (Xinhua) — Armenians had a cooling-off day by splashing water on Sunday, to celebrate a holiday known as Vardavar, widely observed 14 weeks after Easter.
Although the event was observed by the Armenian Apostolic Church as the Transfiguration of Christ, it has its roots deep in the pagan past of Armenia before the adoption of Christianity in 301 AD.
The holiday, once marked as a tribute to Astghik, the pagan goddess of water, beauty, love and fertility, is now celebrated by drenching each other with water.
On Sunday, it was very common to see people dousing complete strangers and unsuspecting passers-by with buckets of water. The festival is particularly popular among the youth as it is the day when everyone is allowed to pull water pranks and get away with it.
The festival comes at a perfect time for the residents of the Armenian capital as hot weather conditions often force many to stay inside.
Please find the attached press release of the Ministry of Diaspora. Sincerely, Media and PR Department (+374 10) 585601, internal 805
Please find the attached press release of the Ministry of Diaspora. Sincerely, Media and PR Department (+374 10) 585601, internal 805 ---------------------- Հարգանքով` Մամուլի և հասարակայնության հետ կապերի վարչություն (+374 10) 585601, ներքին 805
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