RFE/RL Armenian Report – 05/25/2023


Another Pashinian Statement Raises Eyebrows

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, 24May2023

Opposition leaders and other critics of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian have 
expressed shock at his claim that Armenia needs a peace treaty with Azerbaijan 
in order to legalize its borders and very existence as a sovereign state.

Pashinian made the claim on Wednesday as he defended his plans to recognize 
Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh through the treaty envisaging 
mutual recognition by the two South Caucasus states of each other’s territorial 
integrity. He likened it to a property ownership certificate.

“Throughout its millennia-long existence Armenia has never had an ownership 
certificate,” he declared. “If we manage to do what we want to do, then for the 
first time in our history we will get an ownership certificate and will be not 
only a de facto but also a de jure owner [of modern-day Armenian territory.] We 
all … want to overcome our status of tenants.”

“His primitiveness and illiteracy is putting Armenia in danger,” charged Levon 
Zurabian, the deputy chairman of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian 
National Congress party.

Zurabian at the same time said, “I don’t think that Pashinian’s statements mean 
anything at all because he himself doesn’t understand what he is talking about.”

Hayk Mamijanian, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Pativ Unem bloc, was more 
concerned about consequences of Pashinian’s “lunacy.”

“I’m sure that Pashinian deliberately enabled neighboring countries hostile to 
us to substantiate their future aggression with Pashinian’s statement made 
yesterday,” Mamijanian told reporters on Thursday.

Armenia - Former Deputy Foreign Minister Avet Adonts is interviewed by RFE/RL, 

Former Deputy Foreign Minister Avet Adonts also deplored Pashinian’s “shameful” 
statement, saying that the prime minister questioned the legality of Armenia’s 
sovereignty and territorial integrity despite the fact that Yerevan has 
diplomatic relations with virtually all countries of the world.

“It is probably the first time in history that a head of state has made such 
characterizations of his own state and his own people,” Adonts told RFE/RL’s 
Armenian Service in an interview.

“We have been a full-fledged member of the United States since declaring 
independence in 1991. You can’t join the UN without an ‘ownership certificate,’” 
he said.

The former diplomat also brushed aside Pashinian’s claim that “there are several 
countries in the world that think they can tell us to pack our belongings and 
get out of here any time they want.” He argued that even Azerbaijan did not have 
any territorial claims to Armenia before its victory in the 2020 war in 

Adonts and two other deputy foreign ministers of Armenia resigned in 2021 in 
protest against Pashinian’s policy towards Azerbaijan.

Armenian Defense Chief Shuns CSTO Meeting

        • Artak Khulian

TAJIKISTAN -- The foreign and defense ministers of Collective Security Treaty 
Organisation (CSTO) member states pose for a photo during a meeting in Dushanbe, 
September 15, 2021.

Armenia appeared to boycott on Thursday a regular meeting of the defense 
ministers of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states, 
highlighting its deepening rift with the Russian-led military alliance.

The Armenian Defense Ministry gave no reason for Defense Minister Suren 
Papikian’s failure to attend the meeting held in Belarus’s capital Minsk.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and other Armenian officials have repeatedly 
accused Russia and other ex-Soviet states making up the alliance of not 
fulfilling their obligation to defend Armenia against Azerbaijani attacks.

Pashinian said on Monday that he will pull his country out of the alliance “if 
we conclude that the CSTO has left Armenia.” The Russian Foreign Ministry 
spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, claimed to be bemused by his remarks while warning 
of their potentially “dangerous” consequences.

Pashinian hit back at Zakharova later on Wednesday, saying that she “cannot be 
my interlocutor.”

“My interlocutors are the president and the prime minister of the Russian 
Federation,” he told the Armenian parliament. “Even the Foreign Ministry 
spokesperson of a friendly and respected country like Russia cannot comment on 
my statements. She should just take note of my statements.”

Earlier this year, Yerevan cancelled a CSTO military exercise planned in 
Armenia. The drills are due to be held in Kyrgyzstan soon. It is not clear 
whether Armenians soldiers will take part in them.

Speaking at the Minsk meeting, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stressed 
the “importance” of Armenia’s participation in such events.

“Armenia is a member of our organization, our ally,” said Shoigu. “We are … 
doing everything to stabilize the situation in the South Caucasus.”

Shoigu also reaffirmed Russia’s and other CSTO members’ readiness to send 
monitors to Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. Echoing statements by other 
Russian officials, he claimed that the recent launch of such a monitoring 
mission by the European Union is part of the West’s efforts to drive Russia out 
of the region.

Pashinian’s government has rejected the proposed CSTO mission on the grounds 
that the alliance has not condemned the “Azerbaijani aggression” against 
Armenia. It has given the same reason for refusing “military-technical 
assistance” offered by Armenia’s CSTO allies last fall.

Armenian opposition leaders have expressed serious concern over Yerevan’s 
estrangement from the CSTO, saying that it could further aggravate security 
challenges facing the country.

Probe Reveals Dozens Targeted By Pegasus Spyware In Armenia

        • Anush Mkrtchian

The word Pegasus and binary code are displayed on a smartphone which is placed 
on a keyboard in this illustration taken May 4, 2022.

A joint investigation involving researchers from several Internet watchdogs and 
rights groups has revealed that at least a dozen public figures in Armenia, 
including two RFE/RL journalists, were targeted with Pegasus spyware during and 
after the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Israel's NSO Group became the center of controversy after an international media 
consortium in July 2022 reported that its Pegasus spyware was used in attempts 
to hack smartphones belonging to more than a dozen current or former world 
leaders, journalists, human rights activists, and executives in some 50 

The joint investigation was conducted with Amnesty International's Security Lab, 
Access Now, Canadian Internet watchdog Citizen Lab, CyberHUB-AM, and independent 
mobile security researcher Ruben Muradyan. The report on the probe, released on 
Thursday, said evidence points to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as the reason 
for the attempted espionage between October 2020 and December 2022.

It did not specifically accuse Azerbaijan of wrongdoing, but the investigators 
noted that Pegasus software has been used "extensively" by the country to target 
"a wide range of journalists." More than a thousand Azerbaijani phone numbers 
were “selected for targeting by a Pegasus customer,” according to them.

“We have grounds to assert that this was an Azerbaijani operation,” said Artur 
Papian, an Armenian cyber security expert who also participated in the 
investigation. “This cannot be asserted with one hundred percent certainty 
because we can see that … the targets also included many individuals critical of 
the [Armenian] authorities.”

“So there is a reasonable suspicion that the Armenian authorities could have 
also done this,” Papian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

The joint investigation began in Armenia when tech giant Apple sent 
notifications to users in November 2021 warning they may have been the targets 
of state-sponsored spyware.

It showed that Karlen Aslanian and Astghik Bedevian of RFE/RL's Armenian Service 
were among those targeted in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 
Others targeted included Armenia’s former Foreign Ministry spokeswoman and human 
rights ombudswoman as well as three outspoken critics of Prime Minister Nikol 

"It is no accident that our Armenian Service journalists targeted with Pegasus 
spyware are well-known for their hard-hitting reporting," said RFE/RL President 
and CEO Jamie Fly.

"I am outraged by this gross violation of their privacy and harbor strong 
suspicions that the government of Azerbaijan is responsible. I am grateful to 
our partners for their assistance."

"This investigation highlights the grave nature of spyware threats rippling 
across civil societies in Armenia and Azerbaijan," Donncha O Cearbhaill, head of 
Amnesty International's Security Lab, said for his part.

"The authorities must stop all efforts to stifle freedom of expression and 
undertake an independent and transparent investigation into the attack with 
Pegasus uncovered in both countries," he added.

Another Gyumri Official Prosecuted For Violent Crime

        • Satenik Kaghzvantsian

Armenia -- Yervand Khanamirian, a member of the Gyumri city councel, May 25, 

A member of Gyumri’s municipal council affiliated with Armenia’s ruling Civil 
Contract party was arrested on Thursday on charges of involvement in the 
kidnapping, torture and shooting of a man.

Law-enforcement authorities say that the 50-year-old Gyumri resident had been 
hired by a local businessman, Martin Toroyan, for construction work. They say 
that earlier this month Toroyan beat up the worker, threw him into his dog’s 
kennel and then shot him in the stomach because of suspecting him of theft.

According to the Investigative Committee, Toroyan, who is a Civil Contract 
supporter, was detained at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport as he was about to flee 
to Russia. The businessman posted bail and was placed under house arrest despite 
being charged with attempted murder, torture and illegal arms possession.

The law-enforcement agency claims that the city council member, Yervand 
Khanamirian, tried to cover up the crime before going into hiding.

“I didn’t go into hiding,” Khanamirian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service at a 
regional office of the Investigative Committee. He refused to comment further.

Khanamirian’s lawyer, Aramayis Hayrapetian, rejected the “absurd” accusations. 
He claimed that his client is prosecuted for driving the wounded victim to a 
local policlinic.

Investigators say that the victim, who remains in hospital, tried to hide his 
gun wound from doctors.

Another local council member representing the ruling party, Aghasi Matevosian, 
was arrested in early February on charges of mugging a Russian couple together 
with three other men. Matevosian was released from custody and moved to house 
arrest in late March.

The party led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian controls 11 seats in the 
33-member city council. Its members also hold a number of key posts in the 
municipal administration.

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