RFE/RL Armenian Report – 03/25/2020

                                        Wednesday, 

Government Vows Utility Bill Relief For Struggling Families

        • Artak Khulian

Armenia - The Gazprom Armenia headquarters in Yerevan, 31Oct2014.

Armenia’s public utility companies have agreed not cut off electricity, natural 
gas and water supplies to people failing to pay their bills because of economic 
disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
said on Wednesday.

The crisis has led to the temporary closure of various businesses across the 
country. Many of them put their workers on unpaid leave.

Workers with modest salaries and no cash savings have been hit particularly hard 
by the stoppage. Some of them are now unable to pay their utility bills for last 
month.

At least one utility, the Gazprom-Armenia gas operator, has refused to grant 
them a reprieve. One of its employees, Lusine Arustamian, spoke to RFE/RL’s 
Armenian service as she disconnected defaulting households of a Yerevan 
neighborhood from supplies on Wednesday.

Arustamian said that most of its residents have not yet paid their gas bills. 
She said the Gazprom-Armenia management ordered her to cut off gas supplies to 
them.

Pensioner Araksya Poghosian lives in of the disconnected apartments with her 
daughter and a grandchild. She said the gas operator declined her request to 
wait until the end of this month.

Opposition lawmakers cited more such stories during the Armenian government’s 
question-and-answer session in the parliament. They demanded urgent government 
assistance to the affected families.

Pashinian spoke out against opposition calls for freezing all utility payments, 
saying that such a measure would be exploited by unscrupulous consumers who can 
pay their bills. He also argued many other Armenians, notably public sector 
employees, continue to receive their wages despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Pashinian said the utility bill relief should therefore cover only needy 
families. He said the Armenian government has already reached relevant 
understandings with Gazprom-Armenia, the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA) 
power utility and the Veolia-Djur national water operator.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian confirmed “preliminary” agreements with ENA 
and Veolia-Djur and said a similar deal with Gazprom-Armenia will be finalized 
later on Wednesday.

ENA told RFE/RL’s Armenian service earlier this week that it will not cut 
electricity supplies to low-income consumers for the time being.




Armenian Police Enforce Coronavirus Lockdown

        • Susan Badalian

Armenia -- Police officers check documents of a man in Yerevan as part of a 
coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government, .

Police in Armenia stopped cars and pedestrians and warned other citizens to stay 
at home on Wednesday as they began enforcing a nationwide lockdown aimed at 
stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Unprecedented restrictions on people’s movement imposed by the Armenian 
government late on Tuesday mean that people are only allowed out to buy food, 
receive medical care or briefly exercise near their places of residence. The 
curfew does not apply to a limited number of public and private sector employees 
allowed to continue to go to work.

As is the case in France and other European countries, all citizens must not 
only carry valid IDs but also fill out a form specifying their reasons to leave 
their homes. The form must contain the carrier’s name and birthdate. It can be 
downloaded from a government website or drawn by hand.

As police began patrolling the largely deserted streets of Yerevan it emerged 
that many passersby did not fill out such forms. Some of them instead showed 
police officers their bags filled with groceries bought in supermarkets.

One elderly woman claimed to be unaware of the requirement. “Who is supposed to 
issue such papers?” she said.

“I don’t know who and what should be written there,” said another pensioner.


Armenia -- A police officer checks documents of a woman in Yerevan as part of a 
coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government, .

There seemed to be greater compliance with the rule in the center of Yerevan. 
“I’m taking my grandchild home,” one woman there said after showing policemen a 
form which she said was filled out by her daughter.

A deputy chief of the Armenian police, Hayk Mherian, said in the morning that 
officers will avoid fining or briefly detaining people in the first hours of the 
lockdown. “But we will be fully enforcing the law after 4 p.m.,” he told 
reporters.

Under a government bill passed by the Armenian parliament on Monday, citizens 
defying quarantine or self-isolation orders issued by health authorities will 
face not only heavy fines but also up to five years in prison. There were more 
than 3,000 quarantined people in Armenia as of Tuesday evening, according to the 
authorities.

Another lockdown rule bans private cars from carrying more than one passenger at 
a time apart from the driver. Mherian said police ordered 92 people out of cars 
for this reason at the start of the emergency street patrols across the country.




Karabakh Elections Not Cancelled Despite Coronavirus Concerns

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Nagorno-Karabakh -- The parliament building in Stepanakert, September 7, 2018.

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have registered no cases of coronavirus so far 
and are not planning to cancel presidential and parliamentary elections 
scheduled for March 31, a senior official in Stepanakert said on Wednesday.

“If such a decision [to delay the elections] was made there would be an official 
statement to that effect,” Tigran Abrahamian, a spokesman for a Karabakh task 
force coordinating measures against coronavirus, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Earlier in the day, the task force urged Karabakh residents to refrain for the 
next seven days from travelling to Armenia where the number of confirmed 
coronavirus cases reached 265 the previous night.

The spread of the COVID-19 virus has led the Armenian government to declare a 
state of emergency and cancel a constitutional referendum that was due to be 
held on April 5. It has also fuelled calls for the Karabakh polls to be 
postponed by several months.

Abrahamian stressed that no coronavirus cases have been recorded in Karabakh so 
far. He said the authorities in Stepanakert have quarantined, as a precautionary 
measure, more than two dozen people, most of them Karabakh students of Armenian 
and other foreign universities who have returned home due to the pandemic.

The official also said that all members of Karabakh election commissions will 
have protective gloves, face masks and hand sanitizers during the March 31 vote. 
Also, he said, they will give every Karabakh voter a single-use pen for signing 
registration documents at polling stations.

The idea of delaying the elections is backed by some political forces in 
Karabakh, notably the opposition National Revival party. Its leader, Hayk 
Khanumian, argued on Wednesday that the polls are due to be monitored by 
hundreds of observers from Armenia. He said they would pose a health risk for 
Karabakh.

Daniel Ioannisian, a Yerevan-based civic activist whose Union of Informed 
Citizens plans to deploy 100 election observers in Karabakh, sought to allay 
these fears. He argued that hundreds of people are continuing to travel between 
Karabakh and Armenia on a daily basis.

“We will measure the temperature of all our observers both in Yerevan and right 
before their entry into polling stations,” said Ioannisian. “The observers’ 
physical contacts in Karabakh will be reduced to a minimum, and we already have 
sufficient quantities of face masks and hand sanitizers for them.”

The upcoming elections are expected to be the most democratic, competitive and 
unpredictable in Karabakh’s history.

Observers believe that only three of the 14 presidential candidates stand a 
chance of succeeding Bako Sahakian, Karabakh’s outgoing president who has been 
in office since 2007. Those are Karabakh’s Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian, 
former Prime Minister Arayik Harutiunian and retired army General Vitaly 
Balasanian.

The Karabakh parliamentary race is also tightly contested, with over 300 
candidates representing 12 parties and blocs vying for 32 seats in the local 
legislature.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


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RFE/RL Armenian Report – 03/25/2020

                                        Wednesday, 

Government Vows Utility Bill Relief For Struggling Families

        • Artak Khulian

Armenia - The Gazprom Armenia headquarters in Yerevan, 31Oct2014.

Armenia’s public utility companies have agreed not cut off electricity, natural 
gas and water supplies to people failing to pay their bills because of economic 
disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
said on Wednesday.

The crisis has led to the temporary closure of various businesses across the 
country. Many of them put their workers on unpaid leave.

Workers with modest salaries and no cash savings have been hit particularly hard 
by the stoppage. Some of them are now unable to pay their utility bills for last 
month.

At least one utility, the Gazprom-Armenia gas operator, has refused to grant 
them a reprieve. One of its employees, Lusine Arustamian, spoke to RFE/RL’s 
Armenian service as she disconnected defaulting households of a Yerevan 
neighborhood from supplies on Wednesday.

Arustamian said that most of its residents have not yet paid their gas bills. 
She said the Gazprom-Armenia management ordered her to cut off gas supplies to 
them.

Pensioner Araksya Poghosian lives in of the disconnected apartments with her 
daughter and a grandchild. She said the gas operator declined her request to 
wait until the end of this month.

Opposition lawmakers cited more such stories during the Armenian government’s 
question-and-answer session in the parliament. They demanded urgent government 
assistance to the affected families.

Pashinian spoke out against opposition calls for freezing all utility payments, 
saying that such a measure would be exploited by unscrupulous consumers who can 
pay their bills. He also argued many other Armenians, notably public sector 
employees, continue to receive their wages despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Pashinian said the utility bill relief should therefore cover only needy 
families. He said the Armenian government has already reached relevant 
understandings with Gazprom-Armenia, the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA) 
power utility and the Veolia-Djur national water operator.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian confirmed “preliminary” agreements with ENA 
and Veolia-Djur and said a similar deal with Gazprom-Armenia will be finalized 
later on Wednesday.

ENA told RFE/RL’s Armenian service earlier this week that it will not cut 
electricity supplies to low-income consumers for the time being.




Armenian Police Enforce Coronavirus Lockdown

        • Susan Badalian

Armenia -- Police officers check documents of a man in Yerevan as part of a 
coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government, .

Police in Armenia stopped cars and pedestrians and warned other citizens to stay 
at home on Wednesday as they began enforcing a nationwide lockdown aimed at 
stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Unprecedented restrictions on people’s movement imposed by the Armenian 
government late on Tuesday mean that people are only allowed out to buy food, 
receive medical care or briefly exercise near their places of residence. The 
curfew does not apply to a limited number of public and private sector employees 
allowed to continue to go to work.

As is the case in France and other European countries, all citizens must not 
only carry valid IDs but also fill out a form specifying their reasons to leave 
their homes. The form must contain the carrier’s name and birthdate. It can be 
downloaded from a government website or drawn by hand.

As police began patrolling the largely deserted streets of Yerevan it emerged 
that many passersby did not fill out such forms. Some of them instead showed 
police officers their bags filled with groceries bought in supermarkets.

One elderly woman claimed to be unaware of the requirement. “Who is supposed to 
issue such papers?” she said.

“I don’t know who and what should be written there,” said another pensioner.


Armenia -- A police officer checks documents of a woman in Yerevan as part of a 
coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government, .

There seemed to be greater compliance with the rule in the center of Yerevan. 
“I’m taking my grandchild home,” one woman there said after showing policemen a 
form which she said was filled out by her daughter.

A deputy chief of the Armenian police, Hayk Mherian, said in the morning that 
officers will avoid fining or briefly detaining people in the first hours of the 
lockdown. “But we will be fully enforcing the law after 4 p.m.,” he told 
reporters.

Under a government bill passed by the Armenian parliament on Monday, citizens 
defying quarantine or self-isolation orders issued by health authorities will 
face not only heavy fines but also up to five years in prison. There were more 
than 3,000 quarantined people in Armenia as of Tuesday evening, according to the 
authorities.

Another lockdown rule bans private cars from carrying more than one passenger at 
a time apart from the driver. Mherian said police ordered 92 people out of cars 
for this reason at the start of the emergency street patrols across the country.




Karabakh Elections Not Cancelled Despite Coronavirus Concerns

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Nagorno-Karabakh -- The parliament building in Stepanakert, September 7, 2018.

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have registered no cases of coronavirus so far 
and are not planning to cancel presidential and parliamentary elections 
scheduled for March 31, a senior official in Stepanakert said on Wednesday.

“If such a decision [to delay the elections] was made there would be an official 
statement to that effect,” Tigran Abrahamian, a spokesman for a Karabakh task 
force coordinating measures against coronavirus, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Earlier in the day, the task force urged Karabakh residents to refrain for the 
next seven days from travelling to Armenia where the number of confirmed 
coronavirus cases reached 265 the previous night.

The spread of the COVID-19 virus has led the Armenian government to declare a 
state of emergency and cancel a constitutional referendum that was due to be 
held on April 5. It has also fuelled calls for the Karabakh polls to be 
postponed by several months.

Abrahamian stressed that no coronavirus cases have been recorded in Karabakh so 
far. He said the authorities in Stepanakert have quarantined, as a precautionary 
measure, more than two dozen people, most of them Karabakh students of Armenian 
and other foreign universities who have returned home due to the pandemic.

The official also said that all members of Karabakh election commissions will 
have protective gloves, face masks and hand sanitizers during the March 31 vote. 
Also, he said, they will give every Karabakh voter a single-use pen for signing 
registration documents at polling stations.

The idea of delaying the elections is backed by some political forces in 
Karabakh, notably the opposition National Revival party. Its leader, Hayk 
Khanumian, argued on Wednesday that the polls are due to be monitored by 
hundreds of observers from Armenia. He said they would pose a health risk for 
Karabakh.

Daniel Ioannisian, a Yerevan-based civic activist whose Union of Informed 
Citizens plans to deploy 100 election observers in Karabakh, sought to allay 
these fears. He argued that hundreds of people are continuing to travel between 
Karabakh and Armenia on a daily basis.

“We will measure the temperature of all our observers both in Yerevan and right 
before their entry into polling stations,” said Ioannisian. “The observers’ 
physical contacts in Karabakh will be reduced to a minimum, and we already have 
sufficient quantities of face masks and hand sanitizers for them.”

The upcoming elections are expected to be the most democratic, competitive and 
unpredictable in Karabakh’s history.

Observers believe that only three of the 14 presidential candidates stand a 
chance of succeeding Bako Sahakian, Karabakh’s outgoing president who has been 
in office since 2007. Those are Karabakh’s Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian, 
former Prime Minister Arayik Harutiunian and retired army General Vitaly 
Balasanian.

The Karabakh parliamentary race is also tightly contested, with over 300 
candidates representing 12 parties and blocs vying for 32 seats in the local 
legislature.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


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