RFE?RL Armenian Report – 06/20/2022

                                        Monday, 


Head Of Armenian Judicial Watchdog Shows ‘Proof Of Government Blackmail’

        • Anush Mkrtchian

Armenia - Ruben Vartazarian, head of the Supreme Judicial Council, at a news 
conference in Yerevan, .


The nominal head of Armenia’s judicial watchdog controversially suspended last 
year publicized on Monday an audio recording which he believes corroborates his 
claims that the government warned him to resign or face criminal charges.

The official, Ruben Vartazarian, was suspended as chairman of the Supreme 
Judicial Council (SJC) and charged with obstruction of justice in April 2021 
amid rising tensions with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Pashinian’s political 
allies accused him of encouraging courts to free arrested government critics.

Vartazarian denied the charges and said that he was indicted as part of 
government efforts to replace him with Gagik Jahangirian, a controversial former 
prosecutor widely seen as a figure loyal to Pashinian.

Jahangirian was named as acting head of the SJC pending the outcome of the 
criminal investigation into Vartazarian. The investigation is still going on, 
according to law-enforcement authorities.

At a news conference held in Yerevan, Vartazarian released a secretly recorded 
audio of his conversation with Jahangirian and another SJC member, Stepan 
Mikaelian, which he said took place on February 20, 2021.

Armenia - Gagik Jahangirian, the acting chairman of the Supreme Judicial 
Council, at a news conference in Yerevan, August 2, 2021.

Jahangirian can be heard seemingly telling Vartazarian that he will not face 
criminal proceedings if he steps down as SJC chairman by March 1, 2021.

“I’m telling you, forget about everything, put aside everything, you have kids, 
you have a home,” Jahangirian says, adding that he does not want “bad things” to 
happen to Vartazarian.

Neither Jahangirian nor the SJC denied the authenticity of the 14-minute audio.

The judicial watchdog, which nominates judges and can also dismiss them, 
released a statement downplaying the significance of the audio. It said that it 
will not comment on the “private conversation” recorded without Jahangirian’s 
knowledge.

The acting head of the SJC told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that he has nothing to 
add to the statement.

Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said, meanwhile, that it has 
instructed another law-enforcement agency to examine the recording and determine 
if there was indeed “illegal interference” in criminal investigations relating 
to Vartazarian.

Armenia - The Supreme Judicial Council holds a hearing in Yerevan, July 26, 2021.

Ever since Jahangirian took over the SJC, Armenian courts have rarely rejected 
arrest warrants sought by law-enforcement authorities for opposition figures 
prosecuted on various charges rejected by them as politically motivated. 
Independent and pro-opposition media outlets have regularly accused Jahangirian 
of pressuring judges to make such decisions. He denies that.

Jahangirian stated last August that Armenian courts must be purged of “people 
who have committed crimes against justice.” The 67-year-old himself had been 
accused of grave human rights abuses when serving Armenia’s chief military 
prosecutor from 1997-2006.

In recent months, Armenian opposition groups, lawyers and some judges have 
accused Pashinian’s government of seeking to increase government influence on 
courts under the guise of judicial reforms. The government says the reforms are 
on the contrary increasing judicial independence.

European diplomats signaled their continuing support for the declared reforms 
during a June 8 conference in Yerevan organized by the country’s Constitutional 
Court and the Council of Europe. Armenian opposition lawmakers were not allowed 
to take part in the conference.



U.S. Says Ready To Work With Russia On Karabakh Peace

        • Heghine Buniatian

Armenia - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried is interviewed by 
RFE/RL in Yerevan, June 18, 2022.


The United States is willing to continue to cooperate with Russia in 
facilitating a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, U.S. Assistant 
Secretary of State Karen Donfried insisted over the weekend.

The U.S., Russia and France have for decades jointly tried to broker an 
Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord in their capacity as the co-chairs of the OSCE 
Minsk Group. According to Russian officials, Washington and Paris stopped 
working with Moscow in the Minsk Group format following the Russian invasion of 
Ukraine.

Donfried denied this as she visited Armenia on the last leg of her tour of the 
three South Caucasus states.

“The U.S. has continued to say that we support the Minsk Group co-chair 
process,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in an interview. “We continue to 
believe that it is a very important format, particularly on Nagorno-Karabakh, 
and it is essential that we keep various formats in play to try to advance 
peace. And we will continue to do that going forward.”

Asked whether Washington is ready for fresh contacts with Moscow for that 
purpose, Donfried said: “Yes. Russia is a Minsk Group co-chair. France, the U.S. 
and Russia would continue in that format.”

In recent weeks, Armenia’s leaders have called for renewed joint activities of 
U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian reportedly discussed the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin 
in a June 1 phone.

Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian meets with U.S. Assistant Secretary of 
State Karen Donfried, June 18, 2022.

By contrast, Azerbaijani officials and President Ilham Aliyev in particular have 
repeatedly questioned the need for the Minsk Group’s continued existence. Aliyev 
has said that the war in Ukraine has effectively put an end to that joint 
mediation framework.

“Azerbaijan has not been supportive of the Minsk Group co-chair process, the 
United States is,” said Donfried. “We are a participant in that process and we 
will continue to do so.”

The U.S. official met with Aliyev in Baku before proceeding to Yerevan for talks 
with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian held on Saturday. She said that in both 
capitals she “felt a desire for peaceful settlement.”

Aliyev on Thursday implicitly threatened to resort to military action if Armenia 
continues to oppose the opening of a land corridor connecting Azerbaijan to its 
Nakhichevan exclave. Officials in Yerevan responded by reiterating that 
Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements brokered by Russia call for only conventional 
transport links between the two South Caucasus states.

Commenting on Aliyev’s bellicose rhetoric, Donfried said: “There is no question 
that words matter and so we need to be thoughtful about the words that we use. I 
think actions matter as well but if there is going to be forward progress toward 
reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia there is no question that people 
need to be mindful about their words.”



Armenian President ‘Happy’ With Russia’s Resilience To Sanctions


Russia - Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturian talks to other Armenian 
participants of an economic forum in St Petersburg, June 17, 2022.


President Vahagn Khachaturian has praised Russia’s response to Western 
sanctions, saying that Moscow has confounded gloomy economic predictions made 
right after its invasion of Ukraine.

Khachaturian was among foreign dignitaries who attended an international 
economic forum held in Saint Petersburg late last week with almost no Western 
participation. He sat next to the speakers of both houses of Russia’s parliament 
during the main plenary session of the annual forum that featured a keynote 
address by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin again defended his “special military operation” in Ukraine and dismissed 
the resulting Western sanctions as an “economic blitzkrieg against Russia had no 
chance of succeeding from the very beginning.” He claimed that the unprecedented 
sanctions are primarily damaging Western economies.

Meeting with Putting later on Friday, Khachaturian said he agrees with “the 
conclusions which you drew” in the speech.

“It’s really a new era,” he said at the start of the meeting. “One should 
probably think about how to continue to develop in the new conditions that open 
up new opportunities.”

“I am sure that Russia’s economy will survive based on the resources and means 
at its disposal and given [what happened in] the last two months,” he went on. 
“The expectations, the predictions which … were made even by Russian 
specialists, financiers and economists have not come true.”

RUSSIA – Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the St. 
Petersburg International Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg, June 17, 2022

Khachaturian, who himself is an economist, said the Russian authorities’ 
economic policies have reversed a depreciation of the Russian ruble, reined in 
inflation an enabled the domestic economy to continue its “development.”

“In this sense, I am very happy,” added the largely ceremonial president who was 
elected by the Armenian parliament one week after the start of the Russian 
invasion in late February.

Armenia, which has very close economic links with Russia, was initially expected 
to be hit hard by the barrage of sanctions imposed by the United States, the 
European Union and other Western powers. But with the Russian economy proving 
more resilient than expected, the authorities in Yerevan now hope that Armenia’s 
economic growth will not slow down significantly this year.

Khachaturian also praised Putin’s role in the ceasefire that stopped the 2020 
Armenian-Azerbaijani war and follow-up peace efforts.

“I think that the Armenian people appreciate your efforts to resolve the 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he said.

The president went on to note “historical friendship” of Armenia and Russia. 
“It’s not me, it’s our ancestors who had decided 200 years ago or earlier that 
we must live together and make joint efforts to develop,” he said.



Putin Hopes For ‘Stability’ In Armenia


Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Armenian counterpart 
Vahagn Khachaturian, Saint Petersburg, June 17, 2022.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Armenia as Russia’s “strategic 
ally” and said Moscow is interested in political stability in the South Caucasus 
nation.

“Armenia is not just our partner, it’s our strategic ally, and we value that,” 
Putin told Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturian late on Friday during a 
meeting held on the sidelines of the Saint Petersburg International Economic 
Forum.

“We understand what is happening today in Armenia and around Armenia,” he said. 
“We are intent on developing our partnership relations. We are interested in a 
stable situation in the country which will guarantee progressive development.”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov similarly expressed hope last month that Armenia 
will enter a “period of stability” when he comment daily antigovernment protests 
launched by the Armenian opposition on May 1. Peskov said the protests aimed at 
toppling Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian are the country’s “internal affair.”

In his opening remarks at his first-ever meeting with Putin, Khachaturian said 
that Pashinian’s official visit to Russia in April had a “huge impact” on the 
political situation in Armenia by ending “some speculation” there.

“But it was clear how you received [Pashinian] here and what he felt when he 
toured [the Russian city of] Nizhny Novgorod,” Khachaturian said, seemingly 
alluding to speculation that Moscow is encouraging opposition groups to oust 
Pashinian.

“I am confident that our further relations will certainly develop. One should 
just help the leadership of the country, I mean Armenia, and, if there are some 
problems, root out those problems,” added the largely ceremonial head of state, 
who was elected by Armenia’s government-controlled parliament earlier this year.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2022 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 

RFE?RL Armenian Report – 06/20/2022

                                        Monday, 


Head Of Armenian Judicial Watchdog Shows ‘Proof Of Government Blackmail’

        • Anush Mkrtchian

Armenia - Ruben Vartazarian, head of the Supreme Judicial Council, at a news 
conference in Yerevan, .


The nominal head of Armenia’s judicial watchdog controversially suspended last 
year publicized on Monday an audio recording which he believes corroborates his 
claims that the government warned him to resign or face criminal charges.

The official, Ruben Vartazarian, was suspended as chairman of the Supreme 
Judicial Council (SJC) and charged with obstruction of justice in April 2021 
amid rising tensions with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Pashinian’s political 
allies accused him of encouraging courts to free arrested government critics.

Vartazarian denied the charges and said that he was indicted as part of 
government efforts to replace him with Gagik Jahangirian, a controversial former 
prosecutor widely seen as a figure loyal to Pashinian.

Jahangirian was named as acting head of the SJC pending the outcome of the 
criminal investigation into Vartazarian. The investigation is still going on, 
according to law-enforcement authorities.

At a news conference held in Yerevan, Vartazarian released a secretly recorded 
audio of his conversation with Jahangirian and another SJC member, Stepan 
Mikaelian, which he said took place on February 20, 2021.

Armenia - Gagik Jahangirian, the acting chairman of the Supreme Judicial 
Council, at a news conference in Yerevan, August 2, 2021.

Jahangirian can be heard seemingly telling Vartazarian that he will not face 
criminal proceedings if he steps down as SJC chairman by March 1, 2021.

“I’m telling you, forget about everything, put aside everything, you have kids, 
you have a home,” Jahangirian says, adding that he does not want “bad things” to 
happen to Vartazarian.

Neither Jahangirian nor the SJC denied the authenticity of the 14-minute audio.

The judicial watchdog, which nominates judges and can also dismiss them, 
released a statement downplaying the significance of the audio. It said that it 
will not comment on the “private conversation” recorded without Jahangirian’s 
knowledge.

The acting head of the SJC told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that he has nothing to 
add to the statement.

Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said, meanwhile, that it has 
instructed another law-enforcement agency to examine the recording and determine 
if there was indeed “illegal interference” in criminal investigations relating 
to Vartazarian.

Armenia - The Supreme Judicial Council holds a hearing in Yerevan, July 26, 2021.

Ever since Jahangirian took over the SJC, Armenian courts have rarely rejected 
arrest warrants sought by law-enforcement authorities for opposition figures 
prosecuted on various charges rejected by them as politically motivated. 
Independent and pro-opposition media outlets have regularly accused Jahangirian 
of pressuring judges to make such decisions. He denies that.

Jahangirian stated last August that Armenian courts must be purged of “people 
who have committed crimes against justice.” The 67-year-old himself had been 
accused of grave human rights abuses when serving Armenia’s chief military 
prosecutor from 1997-2006.

In recent months, Armenian opposition groups, lawyers and some judges have 
accused Pashinian’s government of seeking to increase government influence on 
courts under the guise of judicial reforms. The government says the reforms are 
on the contrary increasing judicial independence.

European diplomats signaled their continuing support for the declared reforms 
during a June 8 conference in Yerevan organized by the country’s Constitutional 
Court and the Council of Europe. Armenian opposition lawmakers were not allowed 
to take part in the conference.



U.S. Says Ready To Work With Russia On Karabakh Peace

        • Heghine Buniatian

Armenia - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried is interviewed by 
RFE/RL in Yerevan, June 18, 2022.


The United States is willing to continue to cooperate with Russia in 
facilitating a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, U.S. Assistant 
Secretary of State Karen Donfried insisted over the weekend.

The U.S., Russia and France have for decades jointly tried to broker an 
Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord in their capacity as the co-chairs of the OSCE 
Minsk Group. According to Russian officials, Washington and Paris stopped 
working with Moscow in the Minsk Group format following the Russian invasion of 
Ukraine.

Donfried denied this as she visited Armenia on the last leg of her tour of the 
three South Caucasus states.

“The U.S. has continued to say that we support the Minsk Group co-chair 
process,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in an interview. “We continue to 
believe that it is a very important format, particularly on Nagorno-Karabakh, 
and it is essential that we keep various formats in play to try to advance 
peace. And we will continue to do that going forward.”

Asked whether Washington is ready for fresh contacts with Moscow for that 
purpose, Donfried said: “Yes. Russia is a Minsk Group co-chair. France, the U.S. 
and Russia would continue in that format.”

In recent weeks, Armenia’s leaders have called for renewed joint activities of 
U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian reportedly discussed the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin 
in a June 1 phone.

Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian meets with U.S. Assistant Secretary of 
State Karen Donfried, June 18, 2022.

By contrast, Azerbaijani officials and President Ilham Aliyev in particular have 
repeatedly questioned the need for the Minsk Group’s continued existence. Aliyev 
has said that the war in Ukraine has effectively put an end to that joint 
mediation framework.

“Azerbaijan has not been supportive of the Minsk Group co-chair process, the 
United States is,” said Donfried. “We are a participant in that process and we 
will continue to do so.”

The U.S. official met with Aliyev in Baku before proceeding to Yerevan for talks 
with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian held on Saturday. She said that in both 
capitals she “felt a desire for peaceful settlement.”

Aliyev on Thursday implicitly threatened to resort to military action if Armenia 
continues to oppose the opening of a land corridor connecting Azerbaijan to its 
Nakhichevan exclave. Officials in Yerevan responded by reiterating that 
Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements brokered by Russia call for only conventional 
transport links between the two South Caucasus states.

Commenting on Aliyev’s bellicose rhetoric, Donfried said: “There is no question 
that words matter and so we need to be thoughtful about the words that we use. I 
think actions matter as well but if there is going to be forward progress toward 
reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia there is no question that people 
need to be mindful about their words.”



Armenian President ‘Happy’ With Russia’s Resilience To Sanctions


Russia - Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturian talks to other Armenian 
participants of an economic forum in St Petersburg, June 17, 2022.


President Vahagn Khachaturian has praised Russia’s response to Western 
sanctions, saying that Moscow has confounded gloomy economic predictions made 
right after its invasion of Ukraine.

Khachaturian was among foreign dignitaries who attended an international 
economic forum held in Saint Petersburg late last week with almost no Western 
participation. He sat next to the speakers of both houses of Russia’s parliament 
during the main plenary session of the annual forum that featured a keynote 
address by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin again defended his “special military operation” in Ukraine and dismissed 
the resulting Western sanctions as an “economic blitzkrieg against Russia had no 
chance of succeeding from the very beginning.” He claimed that the unprecedented 
sanctions are primarily damaging Western economies.

Meeting with Putting later on Friday, Khachaturian said he agrees with “the 
conclusions which you drew” in the speech.

“It’s really a new era,” he said at the start of the meeting. “One should 
probably think about how to continue to develop in the new conditions that open 
up new opportunities.”

“I am sure that Russia’s economy will survive based on the resources and means 
at its disposal and given [what happened in] the last two months,” he went on. 
“The expectations, the predictions which … were made even by Russian 
specialists, financiers and economists have not come true.”

RUSSIA – Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the St. 
Petersburg International Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg, June 17, 2022

Khachaturian, who himself is an economist, said the Russian authorities’ 
economic policies have reversed a depreciation of the Russian ruble, reined in 
inflation an enabled the domestic economy to continue its “development.”

“In this sense, I am very happy,” added the largely ceremonial president who was 
elected by the Armenian parliament one week after the start of the Russian 
invasion in late February.

Armenia, which has very close economic links with Russia, was initially expected 
to be hit hard by the barrage of sanctions imposed by the United States, the 
European Union and other Western powers. But with the Russian economy proving 
more resilient than expected, the authorities in Yerevan now hope that Armenia’s 
economic growth will not slow down significantly this year.

Khachaturian also praised Putin’s role in the ceasefire that stopped the 2020 
Armenian-Azerbaijani war and follow-up peace efforts.

“I think that the Armenian people appreciate your efforts to resolve the 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he said.

The president went on to note “historical friendship” of Armenia and Russia. 
“It’s not me, it’s our ancestors who had decided 200 years ago or earlier that 
we must live together and make joint efforts to develop,” he said.



Putin Hopes For ‘Stability’ In Armenia


Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Armenian counterpart 
Vahagn Khachaturian, Saint Petersburg, June 17, 2022.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Armenia as Russia’s “strategic 
ally” and said Moscow is interested in political stability in the South Caucasus 
nation.

“Armenia is not just our partner, it’s our strategic ally, and we value that,” 
Putin told Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturian late on Friday during a 
meeting held on the sidelines of the Saint Petersburg International Economic 
Forum.

“We understand what is happening today in Armenia and around Armenia,” he said. 
“We are intent on developing our partnership relations. We are interested in a 
stable situation in the country which will guarantee progressive development.”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov similarly expressed hope last month that Armenia 
will enter a “period of stability” when he comment daily antigovernment protests 
launched by the Armenian opposition on May 1. Peskov said the protests aimed at 
toppling Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian are the country’s “internal affair.”

In his opening remarks at his first-ever meeting with Putin, Khachaturian said 
that Pashinian’s official visit to Russia in April had a “huge impact” on the 
political situation in Armenia by ending “some speculation” there.

“But it was clear how you received [Pashinian] here and what he felt when he 
toured [the Russian city of] Nizhny Novgorod,” Khachaturian said, seemingly 
alluding to speculation that Moscow is encouraging opposition groups to oust 
Pashinian.

“I am confident that our further relations will certainly develop. One should 
just help the leadership of the country, I mean Armenia, and, if there are some 
problems, root out those problems,” added the largely ceremonial head of state, 
who was elected by Armenia’s government-controlled parliament earlier this year.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2022 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.