RFE/RL Armenian Report – 07/31/2020

                                        Friday, 

Lawmaker Denounced For Leaving Tsarukian’s Party

        • Anush Mkrtchian

Armenia -- Parliament deputy Sergey Bagratian speaks to RFE/RL, Yerevan, January 
26, 2020.

Senior representatives of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) condemned a fellow 
parliamentarian on Friday for leaving the country’s largest parliamentary 
opposition force led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian.

The lawmaker, Sergey Bagratian, formally notified parliament speaker Ararat 
Mirzoyan about his decision to quit the BHK in a letter revealed on July 23. He 
gave no reason for the move.

BHK representatives were careful not to comment on it until now, saying that 
Bagratian has not answered their phone calls or communicated with them otherwise 
for more than a month.

Bagratian broke his silence on Friday with a Facebook post saying that he has 
had unspecified “significant differences” with the BHK leadership “for quite a 
while.” “I have repeatedly presented my objections to key [BHK] statements,” he 
claimed.

Senior members of Tsarukian’s party were quick to hit back at him. Arman 
Abovian, the number two figure in the BHK’s parliamentary group, insisted that 
Bagratian has never openly disagreed with the party’s decisions. Abovian urged 
him to resign from the Armenian parliament altogether.

Tsarukian’s spokeswoman, Iveta Tonoyan, strongly condemned Bagratian’s 
statement, saying that the 57-year-old is “trampling moral principles underfoot” 
for the sake of preserving his parliament seat.

Tonoyan also added her voiced to media speculation that Bagratian defected from 
the BHK to avoid prosecution on charges of financial abuses allegedly committed 
in Armenia’s southeastern Vayots Dzor when it was governed by him from 
2010-2012. She claimed that Tsarukian has repeatedly urged Bagratian to 
compensate the state for the “damage” caused by him but that he has refused to 
do that. Tonoyan did not give further details.

Bagratian denied these allegations when he spoke with RFE/RL’s Armenian service 
by phone. He insisted that he has only been questioned by law-enforcement 
officials as a witness in a criminal case opened recently.


Armenia -- Gagik Tsarukian and other deputies from his Prosperous Armenia Party 
attend a parliament session in Yerevan, July 9, 2019.

Bagratian stopped making public statements shortly after the parliament allowed 
law-enforcement authorities on June 15 to arrest and prosecute Tsarukian on vote 
buying charges which the BHK leader rejects as politically motivated.

The BHK claims that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian ordered the National Security 
Service (NSS) to “fabricate” the charges in response to Tsarukian’s June 5 calls 
for the Armenian government’s resignation. It also says that the NSS and police 
have rounded up scores of BHK activists in a bid to ratchet up the pressure on 
Tsarukian. Pashinian and his allies deny a politically motivated crackdown on 
the party.

Bagratian’s exit reduced to 24 the number of parliament seats held by the BHK. 
The party continues to have the second largest group in the 132-member National 
Assembly controlled by Pashinian’s My Step bloc.



Former Armenian Security Chief Claims Political Persecution

        • Anush Mkrtchian

Armenia -- Former National Security Service Director Artur Vanetsian speaks to 
journalists outside the NSS headquarters in Yerevan, .

Artur Vanetsian, the former National Security Service (NSS) director leading an 
opposition party, accused the Armenian authorities of trying to “silence” him 
after being questioned on Friday in an investigation launched by the NSS.

Vanetsian was summoned to the NSS to explain a personnel decision which he made 
while running Armenia’s most powerful security agency in 2018.

An NSS spokesman, Artur Gevorgian, said he is suspected of hiring a retired 
51-year-old officer and giving him a senior NSS position in breach of an 
Armenian law. He said the law stipulates that only individuals aged 50 or 
younger can be appointed to such posts. Vanetsian’s decision may have therefore 
amounted to an abuse of power, Gevorgian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Vanetsian flatly denied breaking the law when he spoke to journalists after 
spending about 30 minutes inside the NSS headquarters in Yerevan. He said he 
refused to give his former subordinates any explanations.

“It’s yet another fabricated and politically motivated case,” claimed Vanetsian. 
“For the past eight months the authorities have doing everything to prosecute me 
with the aim of stopping my political activities.”

“They probably have trouble reading and understanding the law,” he said. “I mean 
not NSS investigators but Armenia’s political leadership and the current NSS 
director.”

Vanetsian’s lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, insisted, for her part, that even if the 
alleged violation occurred it did not constitute a criminal offense.

Vanetsian was appointed as head of the NSS following the 2018 “Velvet 
Revolution” and quickly became an influential member of Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian’s entourage. He resigned last September after falling out with 
Pashinian for still unclear reasons. The 40-year-old has since repeatedly 
accused Pashinian of incompetence and misrule, prompting angry responses from 
Pashinian and his political allies.

Hrachya Hakobian, a pro-government parliamentarian and Pashinian’s 
brother-in-law, denied any political persecution of Vanetsian. “Our public knows 
who and how has been subjected to political persecution in the past,” he said.

Vanetsian called for the prime minister’s resignation shortly before setting up 
an opposition party, called Hayrenik (Fatherland), in February.

In late June, Hayrenik and two other opposition parties, Prosperous Armenia 
(BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun, pledged to work together in challenging the government 
and “restoring the constitutional order.” The move followed criminal charges 
brought against BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian. The latter rejects them as 
politically motivated.

Vanetsian predicted on Friday that “very active political processes,” possibly 
including anti-government protests, will unfold in Armenia soon.

“The authorities have failed in all spheres,” he charged. “We are facing a 
health crisis, an economic crisis and other problems. Instead of getting things 
done and solving the problems, the authorities are busy trying to silence their 
political opponents.”

“After the coronavirus recedes and the state of emergency is lifted, we will see 
what kind of protests there will be, who will take part in them and how they 
will be led,” countered Hakobian.



Armenian Defense Chief Visits Karabakh


Nagorno-Karabakh -- Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan (R) visits a 
Karabakh Armenian military base, .

Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan dismissed Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s 
latest warnings to Armenia as he visited Nagorno-Karabakh and inspected military 
facilities there on Friday.

According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, during the two-day visit Tonoyan 
toured military bases of Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army and paid 
“special attention” to new weapons delivered to it recently.

A ministry statement said Tonoyan also discussed with the Defense Army 
commander, Major-General Jalal Harutiunian, and other local officers “current 
and possible regional developments.”

The visit came two weeks after unusually heavy fighting that broke out at a 
section of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan located hundreds of kilometers west 
of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh. The situation 
along the Karabakh frontlines has remained relatively calm in recent weeks.

Aliyev on Thursday again claimed that his troops deal a “crushing blow” to the 
Armenians during the border clashes which left at least 12 Azerbaijani 
servicemen, including a general, and five Armenian soldiers dead. “The Armenian 
armed forces must leave our lands before it’s too late,” he said.

Tonoyan scoffed at this warning in video remarks circulated by his press office. 
“As defense minister, I would just like to understand ‘before it’s too late’ 
means when,” he said.

Tonoyan also shrugged off Azerbaijani military officials’ fresh statements to 
the effect that they are ready to carry out Aliyev’s order to restart war at any 
moment.

“First of all, it’s not that we don’t wait for such orders,” he said. “Secondly, 
the hostilities in Tavush [province bordering Azerbaijan] were vivid proof of 
the fact that although the enemy intensively used state-of-the-art equipment it 
did not achieve success and suffered many losses instead.”

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has also repeatedly said that Baku cannot force 
the Armenian side to make unilateral concessions with threats to resolve the 
Karabakh conflict by force.


Armenia -- Armenian soldiers deploy a Tochka-U ballistic missile system, July 
31, 2020.

Earlier on Friday, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan announced that frontline and 
other units of the Armenian army have been put on high alert as part of a 
“sudden check” of their combat readiness ordered by the chief of the army’s 
General Staff, Lieutenant-General Onik Gasparian. The ministry released several 
photographs of ballistic missile and long-range artillery systems deployed in 
various locations.

The check came amid joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises which began in 
various parts of Azerbaijan on Wednesday. The Armenian military said earlier 
this week that it will be closely monitoring the exercises widely linked to the 
recent hostilities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Turkey has blamed Armenia for the fighting and vowed boost military aid to 
Azerbaijan. Yerevan has responded by accusing the Turkish government of trying 
to destabilize the region.

Aliyev reportedly thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Ankara’s 
“resolute support” to Baku during a phone conversation on Friday.


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 – 07/31/2020

                                        Friday, 

Lawmaker Denounced For Leaving Tsarukian’s Party

        • Anush Mkrtchian

Armenia -- Parliament deputy Sergey Bagratian speaks to RFE/RL, Yerevan, January 
26, 2020.

Senior representatives of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) condemned a fellow 
parliamentarian on Friday for leaving the country’s largest parliamentary 
opposition force led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian.

The lawmaker, Sergey Bagratian, formally notified parliament speaker Ararat 
Mirzoyan about his decision to quit the BHK in a letter revealed on July 23. He 
gave no reason for the move.

BHK representatives were careful not to comment on it until now, saying that 
Bagratian has not answered their phone calls or communicated with them otherwise 
for more than a month.

Bagratian broke his silence on Friday with a Facebook post saying that he has 
had unspecified “significant differences” with the BHK leadership “for quite a 
while.” “I have repeatedly presented my objections to key [BHK] statements,” he 
claimed.

Senior members of Tsarukian’s party were quick to hit back at him. Arman 
Abovian, the number two figure in the BHK’s parliamentary group, insisted that 
Bagratian has never openly disagreed with the party’s decisions. Abovian urged 
him to resign from the Armenian parliament altogether.

Tsarukian’s spokeswoman, Iveta Tonoyan, strongly condemned Bagratian’s 
statement, saying that the 57-year-old is “trampling moral principles underfoot” 
for the sake of preserving his parliament seat.

Tonoyan also added her voiced to media speculation that Bagratian defected from 
the BHK to avoid prosecution on charges of financial abuses allegedly committed 
in Armenia’s southeastern Vayots Dzor when it was governed by him from 
2010-2012. She claimed that Tsarukian has repeatedly urged Bagratian to 
compensate the state for the “damage” caused by him but that he has refused to 
do that. Tonoyan did not give further details.

Bagratian denied these allegations when he spoke with RFE/RL’s Armenian service 
by phone. He insisted that he has only been questioned by law-enforcement 
officials as a witness in a criminal case opened recently.


Armenia -- Gagik Tsarukian and other deputies from his Prosperous Armenia Party 
attend a parliament session in Yerevan, July 9, 2019.

Bagratian stopped making public statements shortly after the parliament allowed 
law-enforcement authorities on June 15 to arrest and prosecute Tsarukian on vote 
buying charges which the BHK leader rejects as politically motivated.

The BHK claims that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian ordered the National Security 
Service (NSS) to “fabricate” the charges in response to Tsarukian’s June 5 calls 
for the Armenian government’s resignation. It also says that the NSS and police 
have rounded up scores of BHK activists in a bid to ratchet up the pressure on 
Tsarukian. Pashinian and his allies deny a politically motivated crackdown on 
the party.

Bagratian’s exit reduced to 24 the number of parliament seats held by the BHK. 
The party continues to have the second largest group in the 132-member National 
Assembly controlled by Pashinian’s My Step bloc.



Former Armenian Security Chief Claims Political Persecution

        • Anush Mkrtchian

Armenia -- Former National Security Service Director Artur Vanetsian speaks to 
journalists outside the NSS headquarters in Yerevan, .

Artur Vanetsian, the former National Security Service (NSS) director leading an 
opposition party, accused the Armenian authorities of trying to “silence” him 
after being questioned on Friday in an investigation launched by the NSS.

Vanetsian was summoned to the NSS to explain a personnel decision which he made 
while running Armenia’s most powerful security agency in 2018.

An NSS spokesman, Artur Gevorgian, said he is suspected of hiring a retired 
51-year-old officer and giving him a senior NSS position in breach of an 
Armenian law. He said the law stipulates that only individuals aged 50 or 
younger can be appointed to such posts. Vanetsian’s decision may have therefore 
amounted to an abuse of power, Gevorgian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Vanetsian flatly denied breaking the law when he spoke to journalists after 
spending about 30 minutes inside the NSS headquarters in Yerevan. He said he 
refused to give his former subordinates any explanations.

“It’s yet another fabricated and politically motivated case,” claimed Vanetsian. 
“For the past eight months the authorities have doing everything to prosecute me 
with the aim of stopping my political activities.”

“They probably have trouble reading and understanding the law,” he said. “I mean 
not NSS investigators but Armenia’s political leadership and the current NSS 
director.”

Vanetsian’s lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, insisted, for her part, that even if the 
alleged violation occurred it did not constitute a criminal offense.

Vanetsian was appointed as head of the NSS following the 2018 “Velvet 
Revolution” and quickly became an influential member of Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian’s entourage. He resigned last September after falling out with 
Pashinian for still unclear reasons. The 40-year-old has since repeatedly 
accused Pashinian of incompetence and misrule, prompting angry responses from 
Pashinian and his political allies.

Hrachya Hakobian, a pro-government parliamentarian and Pashinian’s 
brother-in-law, denied any political persecution of Vanetsian. “Our public knows 
who and how has been subjected to political persecution in the past,” he said.

Vanetsian called for the prime minister’s resignation shortly before setting up 
an opposition party, called Hayrenik (Fatherland), in February.

In late June, Hayrenik and two other opposition parties, Prosperous Armenia 
(BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun, pledged to work together in challenging the government 
and “restoring the constitutional order.” The move followed criminal charges 
brought against BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian. The latter rejects them as 
politically motivated.

Vanetsian predicted on Friday that “very active political processes,” possibly 
including anti-government protests, will unfold in Armenia soon.

“The authorities have failed in all spheres,” he charged. “We are facing a 
health crisis, an economic crisis and other problems. Instead of getting things 
done and solving the problems, the authorities are busy trying to silence their 
political opponents.”

“After the coronavirus recedes and the state of emergency is lifted, we will see 
what kind of protests there will be, who will take part in them and how they 
will be led,” countered Hakobian.



Armenian Defense Chief Visits Karabakh


Nagorno-Karabakh -- Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan (R) visits a 
Karabakh Armenian military base, .

Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan dismissed Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s 
latest warnings to Armenia as he visited Nagorno-Karabakh and inspected military 
facilities there on Friday.

According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, during the two-day visit Tonoyan 
toured military bases of Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army and paid 
“special attention” to new weapons delivered to it recently.

A ministry statement said Tonoyan also discussed with the Defense Army 
commander, Major-General Jalal Harutiunian, and other local officers “current 
and possible regional developments.”

The visit came two weeks after unusually heavy fighting that broke out at a 
section of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan located hundreds of kilometers west 
of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh. The situation 
along the Karabakh frontlines has remained relatively calm in recent weeks.

Aliyev on Thursday again claimed that his troops deal a “crushing blow” to the 
Armenians during the border clashes which left at least 12 Azerbaijani 
servicemen, including a general, and five Armenian soldiers dead. “The Armenian 
armed forces must leave our lands before it’s too late,” he said.

Tonoyan scoffed at this warning in video remarks circulated by his press office. 
“As defense minister, I would just like to understand ‘before it’s too late’ 
means when,” he said.

Tonoyan also shrugged off Azerbaijani military officials’ fresh statements to 
the effect that they are ready to carry out Aliyev’s order to restart war at any 
moment.

“First of all, it’s not that we don’t wait for such orders,” he said. “Secondly, 
the hostilities in Tavush [province bordering Azerbaijan] were vivid proof of 
the fact that although the enemy intensively used state-of-the-art equipment it 
did not achieve success and suffered many losses instead.”

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has also repeatedly said that Baku cannot force 
the Armenian side to make unilateral concessions with threats to resolve the 
Karabakh conflict by force.


Armenia -- Armenian soldiers deploy a Tochka-U ballistic missile system, July 
31, 2020.

Earlier on Friday, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan announced that frontline and 
other units of the Armenian army have been put on high alert as part of a 
“sudden check” of their combat readiness ordered by the chief of the army’s 
General Staff, Lieutenant-General Onik Gasparian. The ministry released several 
photographs of ballistic missile and long-range artillery systems deployed in 
various locations.

The check came amid joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises which began in 
various parts of Azerbaijan on Wednesday. The Armenian military said earlier 
this week that it will be closely monitoring the exercises widely linked to the 
recent hostilities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Turkey has blamed Armenia for the fighting and vowed boost military aid to 
Azerbaijan. Yerevan has responded by accusing the Turkish government of trying 
to destabilize the region.

Aliyev reportedly thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Ankara’s 
“resolute support” to Baku during a phone conversation on Friday.


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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