RFE/RL Armenian Report – 12/01/2021

                                        Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Russian, Armenian, Azeri Officials Hold More Talks On Transport Links

        • Aza Babayan

Russia -- A Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani working group on cross-border transport 
issues meets in Moscow, January 30, 2021.

Senior Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani officials were meeting in Moscow on 
Wednesday to try to hammer out final details of an anticipated agreement on 
restoring transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The meeting began less than a week after the leaders of the three states held 
talks in another Russian city, Sochi. They reported further progress towards 
opening the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to passenger and cargo traffic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said a trilateral working group dealing with 
the matter will meet in Moscow in the coming days to announce “decisions which 
we agreed today.” He did not elaborate.

The session of the group co-headed by deputy prime ministers of Russia, Armenia 
and Azerbaijan began in the afternoon and was still not over late in the evening.

“I cannot give at this point details of the agenda of the trilateral working 
group,” a spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian said earlier in 
the day.

The Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh 
commits Armenia to opening rail and road links between Azerbaijan and its 
Nakhichevan exclave. Armenia should be able, for its part, to use Azerbaijani 
territory as a transit route for cargo shipments to Russia and Iran.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly claimed that the deal calls 
for a special “corridor” that will connect Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan 
via Armenia’s Syunik province. Commenting on the Sochi talks over the weekend, 
he declared that the “Zangezur corridor is becoming reality.”

The Armenian Foreign Ministry effectively denied that on Tuesday. Grigorian 
likewise insisted that the three leaders discussed conventional cross-border 
transport links, rather than “exterritorial roads” implied by Aliyev.

Armenia Steps Up Mandatory Testing For Unvaccinated Workers

        • Marine Khachatrian

Armenia - People line up outside a mobile vaccination center in Yerevan's 
Liberty Square, September 24, 2021.

The government introduced on Wednesday mandatory weekly testing for all 
unvaccinated workers as part of its efforts to boost Armenia’s low vaccination 
rates facilitating the spread of the coronavirus.

Public and private sector employees refusing vaccination have been required to 
take coronavirus tests twice a month at their own expense since October 1. They 
will now have to pay for such tests every week in accordance a directive issued 
by Health Minister Anahit Avanesian.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians have gotten inoculated in the last two 
months. The government hopes that the new testing requirement will encourage 
many others to do the same.

Less than 20 percent of the country’s population has been vaccinated so far, a 
figure reflecting widespread vaccine hesitancy.

Davit Melik-Nubarian, a public health expert, welcomed Avanesian’s directive. 
But he said the authorities should find ways of motivating not only registered 
workers but also many other citizens such as pensioners and self-employed 

“If we look at official statistics, [we will see that] employees, who can be 
influenced by us, make up a disproportionate percentage of vaccinated people,” 
Melik-Nubarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Armenia - A man is vaccinated against coronavirus at a mobile vaccination center 
in Yerevan, October 24, 2021.

The Armenian Ministry of Health is also looking forward to the introduction on 
January 1 of a mandatory coronavirus health pass for entry to cultural and 
leisure sites. Only those people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or 
have had a recent negative test will be allowed to visit bars, restaurants, 
theaters and other public venues.

The measure championed by Avanesian has been criticized by some restaurant 
owners concerned about a loss of their revenue. They have also complained that 
it is still not clear how the authorities plan to ensure compliance with the 
health pass.

Melik-Nubarian questioned the authorities’ ability to enforce it. “There is 
concern that it will prove impossible to verify compliance,” he said. “That 
would mean that the decision remains on paper and people will hear one thing but 
see another in real life.”

The daily number of officially confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in Armenia 
began falling two weeks ago after several months of steady increase that 
overwhelmed the national healthcare system. The Ministry of Health recorded 502 
new cases and 43 deaths on Wednesday morning.

Karabakh War Veteran Arrested On Coup Charges

        • Naira Bulghadarian

Armenia -- The main entrance to National Security Service headquarters in 

A prominent war veteran highly critical of Armenia’s government was arrested on 
Wednesday one year after being charged with plotting to assassinate Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Ashot Minasian was the commander of a volunteer militia from the southeastern 
town of Sisian that took part in the 1991-1994 and 2020 wars in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Minasian and three opposition figures were detained in November 2020 amid 
anti-government protests in Yerevan sparked by Armenia’s defeat in the six-week 
war with Azerbaijan stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

The National Security Service (NSS) charged them with plotting to kill Pashinian 
and overthrow his government. The NSS claimed to have found large quantities of 
weapons and ammunition in a property belonging to Minasian.

All four men rejected the charges as politically motivated before being freed by 
courts a few days later. One of them, Artur Vanetsian, headed the NSS from 
2018-2019. He is now a leader of one of the two opposition groups represented in 
the Armenian parliament.

Acting on prosecutors’ appeal, Armenia’s Court of Cassation ordered lower courts 
in October this year to hold fresh hearings on Minasian’s pretrial detention.

A Yerevan court of first instance afterwards refused to remand him in custody. 
The higher Court of Appeals overturned that ruling on Wednesday.

Minasian’s ensuing arrest was strongly condemned by opposition politicians and 
other critics of Pashinian’s government. Aram Vardevanian, a lawyer and lawmaker 
representing the main opposition Hayastan bloc, called it a further blow to 
judicial independence in Armenia.

Earlier this year, the Armenian Ministry of Justice asked the country’s judicial 
watchdog to take disciplinary action against a judge who refused to issue an 
arrest warrant for Minasian in November 2020. The judge, Arman Hovannisian, 
described the move as government retribution for his decision.

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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