RFE/RL Armenian Service – 12/01/2023

                                        Friday, December 1, 2023

Pashinian’s Party Seeks To Oust Another Opposition Mayor

        • Karine Simonian

Armenia - A view of the town of Alaverdi, May 20, 2022

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party has moved to oust the 
mayor of a major community in Armenia’s northern Lori province affiliated with 
an opposition group.

Civil Contract lost control of the community comprising the formerly industrial 
town of Alaverdi and over two dozen smaller towns and villages as a result of 
local elections held in September 2022. It fell short of an overall majority in 
the local council empowered to appoint the community head.

The opposition Aprelu Yerkir party secured such a majority and installed its 
member Arkadi Tamazian as mayor after teaming up with former President Levon 
Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) party. The HAK won only one 
seat in the council.

One of the council members representing Aprelu Yerkir, Simon Zakharov, 
unexpectedly defected from the party in July, putting Tamazian’s position at 
serious risk. Zakharov denied media reports that he was co-opted by his 
pro-government colleagues.

But he did back earlier this week a Civil Contract bid to replace Tamazian 
through a vote of no confidence. Zakharov’s defection gave Pashinian’s party 
enough votes to do that.

Under Armenia law, local councils cannot discuss and vote on motions of censure 
more than once a year. Aprelu Yerkir tried to take advantage of this provision 
in October, initiating a vote of no confidence in Tamazian which its councilors 
never planned to back. Civil Contract representatives say the initiative is null 
and void because the local council did not make a quorum needed for a formal 
debate on it.

Armenia - Arkadi Tamazian, May 20, 2022.

Tamazian on Friday denied that and said it is the ruling party’s motion that is 
illegal. He said he will therefore not convene a special session of the council 
demanded by its pro-government members keen to unseat him.

“Let them challenge my decision in court,” the Alaverdi mayor told RFE/RL’s 
Armenian Service.

Tamazian said later in the day that he has asked the Armenian government to 
disband the local council and call a snap election in the community. The law 
allows but does not require the government to do so.

Civil Contract’s local leader, Davit Ghumashian, dismissed the request. He said 
the Alaverdi council will meet early next week to remove Tamazian and elect him 
as new mayor.

“Our initiative is absolutely legal,” added Ghumashian.

Ghumashian is a former member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican 
Party of Armenia (HHK). He was elected mayor of a village close to Alaverdi on 
the HHK ticket in 2017 a year before Pashinian toppled Sarkisian and swept to 
power. Ghumashian pledged allegiance to Pashinian’s team shortly after the 
“velvet revolution.”

Tamazian on Thursday effectively accused the ruling party of engineering 
Zakharov's defection. The mayor labeled the defector as a “rat” motivated by 
“personal interests.”

Armenia -A session of the local council in Akhurian, July 19, 2023.

Two similar defections allowed Pashinian’s party to replace the opposition head 
of another community in July. The community consists of the northwestern town of 
Akhurian and surrounding villages. Civil Contract failed to prevail in local 
elections also held in September 2022.

Commenting on the looming political crisis in Alaverdi, an Armenian opposition 
parliamentarian, Garnik Danielian, accused Pashinian’s political team of 
continuing to trample of on the will of voters. “This is an undemocratic and 
despicable practice,” he charged in a Facebook post.

The Armenian government already faced such accusations in the wake of local 
polls held across the country in 2022 and 2021. Civil Contract was defeated in 
key urban communities, notably Vanadzor, Armenia’s third largest city. Some of 
those ballots were won by jailed or indicted figures at odds with the 
government. One of them was set free right after deciding not to become a town 

In Vanadzor, the leader of an opposition bloc, Mamikon Aslanian, was arrested in 
December 2021 just days after winning the municipal ballot. Aslanian remains in 
detention, standing trial on corruption charges rejected by him as politically 

Armenia, Azerbaijan Trade More Barbs Over Peace Treaty

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

North Macedonia - The foreign ministers of OSCE member states meet in Skopje, 

Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of dragging feet on a bilateral 
peace treaty sought by the international community.

The foreign ministers of the two South Caucasus countries traded the accusations 
on Thursday when they addressed an annual meeting of the top diplomats of OSCE 
member states held in North Macedonia’s capital Skopje. The two men avoided 
holding talks on the sidelines of the ministerial conference.

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan again condemned the recent Azerbaijani 
offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh that restored Baku’s control over the region and 
forced its practically entire population to flee to Armenia.

“With the tacit consent of the international community, Azerbaijan has achieved 
its long-standing goal: to get the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh without its 
Armenian population,” Mirzoyan declared in his speech.

“Now the entire sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia has become the 
target of our neighbor,” he went on. “This, coupled with continuous hatred, 
military rhetoric, use of force and threats of use of force, refusal to come to 
meetings organized by various international actors, including the U.S. and the 
EU, demonstrates that this country [Azerbaijan] is not sincerely interested in 
peace and stability in our region.”

North Macedonia - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Armenia's Foreign 
Minister Ararat Mirzoyan meet in Skopje, November 29, 2023.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev twice cancelled EU-mediated talks with 
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian planned for October. Azerbaijani Foreign 
Minister Jeyhun Bayramov similarly withdrew from a November 20 meeting with 
Mirzoyan that was due to take place in Washington. Baku accused the Western 
powers of pro-Armenian bias and proposed direct negotiations with Yerevan.

Bayramov reiterated that offer and complained about “biased and one-sided 
actions” of unnamed third parties in his speech at the Skopje conference. He 
claimed that Yerevan itself is dragging out talks on the Armenian-Azerbaijani 
peace treaty.

“The continuation of geopolitical intrigues organized by some actors is 
counterproductive and only serves to drag out the peace process,” added Bayramov.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken telephoned Aliyev and Pashinian on Monday 
to discuss ways of kick-starting the process. No dates for fresh 
Armenian-Azerbaijani talks were announced as a result. Blinken met with Mirzoyan 
at Skopje on Wednesday.

Armenian officials suggested earlier that Aliyev is reluctant to sign a peace 
deal that would preclude Azerbaijani territorial claims to Armenia. Azerbaijan’s 
September 19-20 offensive in Karabakh raised more fears in Yerevan that it may 
also invade Armenia to open a land corridor to the Nakhichevan exclave.

Court Orders Release Of Prominent Armenian General

Armenia - Grigori Khachaturov attends an award ceremony in the presidential 
palace in Yerevan, September 20, 2019.

An Armenian appeals court ordered on Friday the conditional release of a 
prominent military general who demanded Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s 
resignation in 2021.

Major-General Grigori Khachaturov was arrested in March this year on charges of 
money laundering strongly denied by him. A court of first instance allowed 
prosecutors last month to again extend his pre-trial detention.

Khachaturov’s lawyers challenged that decision in the Anti-Corruption Court of 
Appeals. The latter agreed to grant him bail. At the same time, it placed the 
general under so-called “administrative control” involving restrictions on his 
freedom of movement and communication. The court did not immediately specify the 
extent of those restrictions.

Khachaturov is the former commander of the Armenian army’s Third Corps mostly 
stationed in northern Tavush province bordering Azerbaijan. He received a major 
military award and was promoted to the rank of major-general after leading a 
successful military operation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in July 2020, 
less than three months before the outbreak of the six-week war in 

Khachaturov was among four dozen high-ranking military officers who accused 
Pashinian’s government of incompetence and misrule and demanded its resignation 
in February 2021. The unprecedented demand was welcomed by the Armenian 
opposition but condemned as a coup attempt by Pashinian.

In a separate statement issued in March 2021, Khachaturov said “every day and 
hour” of Pashinian’s rule “erodes” Armenia’s national security. He was fired a 
few months later.

The charges leveled against the general stem from a controversial criminal case 
opened against Seyran Ohanian, a former defense minister who now leads the 
parliamentary group of the main opposition Hayastan alliance.

Ohanian was charged in February with illegally allowing the privatization of 
properties that belonged to the Armenian Defense Ministry. He rejected the 
accusations as politically motivated.

The National Security Service (NSS) claimed at the time that Khachaturov “de 
facto” acquired one of those properties at a knockdown price and used it for 
obtaining a bank loan worth 18 million drams ($45,000). One of his lawyers 
dismissed the claim as “laughable.”

Khachaturov’s father Yuri was the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff 
from 2008-2016. He served as secretary general of the Russian-led Collective 
Security Treaty Organization when the current Armenian authorities indicted him 
as well as Ohanian and former President Robert Kocharian in 2018 over their 
alleged role in a 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. Armenia’s Constitutional 
Court declared coup charges brought against them unconstitutional in 2021.

Yuri Khachaturov and his second son Igor actively participated in last year’s 
antigovernment protests staged by the country’s main opposition forces.

First Armenian-Made Satellite Launched Into Space

Armenia - Government officials, scientists and reporters watch a live broadcast 
of the launch of a first Armenian-made satellite into space, Yerevan, December 
1, 2023.

A first-ever satellite designed and manufactured by Armenian scientists was 
launched into space on Friday.

The Hayasat-1 satellite was carried by a SpaceX rocket that blasted off from 
Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The high-tech device shaped like a 10-centimeter cube was jointly developed by 
the Yerevan-based Bazoomq Space Research Laboratory and the Armenian Center for 
Scientific Innovation and Education. Their nascent space program was formally 
licensed by the Armenian Ministry of High-Technology less than three months ago.

High-Technology Minister Robert Khachatrian pledged continued government support 
for the program when he spoke after the successful launch of Hayasat-1. He 
called it a “very remarkable and heartening” development.

Bazoomq’s co-founder and executive director, Avetik Grigorian, spoke of the 
“resumption” of Armenia’s space-related activities, alluding to Armenian 
scientists’ past contributions to Soviet space programs. Hayasat-1 is “only the 
first step” in that endeavor, he said.

“We need to have our own capacity to develop satellites, launch them and give 
them the functions and tasks we want because otherwise we would be dependent on 
big powers that may and may not be willing to support us,” argued Grigorian.

Armenia - The Hayasat-1 satellite.

SpaceX launched Armenia’s first satellite into space in May 2022. The Armenian 
government reportedly purchased the ArmSat-1 satellite from Satlantis, a Spanish 
company that specializes in the production of small satellites and cameras for 
them. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said at the time that it will be used for a 
wide range of purposes, including border control, natural disaster management 
and geology.

The government pledged to open a satellite operations center in the country 
before the end of 2022. However, the construction of the facility appears to 
have fallen behind schedule.

Armenia’s arch-foe Azerbaijan launched its first communication and observation 
satellite into space in 2013. The Azerbaijani army reportedly used satellite 
images for its offensive military operations carried out during the 2020 war in 

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2023 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.