Much Ado About Nothing?

NT Highlights #13 (515)
5 April, 2004

Much Ado About Nothing?
By Haroutiun Khachatrian

Outsiders visiting Armenia on these days may be surprised to learn from mass
media, (including the state-owned ones) that there is a political tension in
this country.
There are almost no real signs to prove this.

In fact, I believe the people saying that there is little basis for
extensive shock and shaking in Armenia are right.

The opposition has declared a single goal: to force Robert Kocharian to
resign, as the results of his re-elections last year were falsified. Event
if one agrees with this allegation, it still remains to see what are the
resources the opposition plans to use to force Kocharian to leave the
President’s office? Its leaders mention one single resource: the people will
organize, in reply to the appeals of these leaders, mass actions of protest
and civil disobedience.

Will they? I doubt deeply. These same opposition leaders failed to persuade
the population to participate in such actions a year ago, immediately after
the presidential elections, when emotions were much higher than now. The
simple fact that Geghamian and Demirchain act jointly now (they failed to
coordinate their actions last year) is evidently insufficient to spark a
large-scale “people movement”now. Despite the high level of negative
emotions towards the authorities and Kocharian personally.

Those seeing parallels between today’s Armenia and Georgia of the last
November miss an important factor: both the life standards and the
capacities of the state machinery in Armenia are much higher than in the
neighboring country. Hence, the basis for a type of “rose revolution” here
is very small if any.

For this reason, the nervous reaction of authorities to the threats of the
opposition leaders look often exaggerated, to put it mildly. The ridiculous
actions of egg-throwing or organizing faked funeral ceremonies to prevent
the actions of oppositions are followed by criminal cases which cannot be
explained by common reason. The same is true for the anti-opposition
campaign in state-run media. I may be wrong, but it seems that this reaction
roots in peculiarities of the character of Robert Kocharian, who takes every
criticism as a personal insult. Anyway, these actions may bring the
situation to even higher degree of tension (and cause more damage) than it
could be in case if the authorities had a more sober stance.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

LCO is Accepting Applications For its 2004 Summer Campaigns

Land and Culture Organization
P.O. Box 1386
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Contact: Raffi Niziblian
Tel: 1-888-LCO-1555
E-mail: [email protected]


The Land and Culture Organization (LCO) has begun recruiting
volunteers for its 2004 summer campaigns.

Established in France in 1977, the Land and Culture Organization is an
international, non-profit organization that has undertaken a variety
of challenging activities ranging from restoration projects of
national historical monuments, to social and economic assistance
programs for Armenian communities living on ancestral lands. The LCO
creates enriching opportunities for men and women of all backgrounds
and interests to directly participate in the process of getting back
to their roots, bridging gaps between past and present and forging
links with today and tomorrow. For over 27 years, Armenians of all
ages have participated in LCO summer campaigns from North and South
America, Europe, Australia, Armenia and the Middle East and
experienced their ancestral homeland beyond the hotels and tourist
spots in Yerevan. They meet and work with local villagers and interact
with their land in a way that deepens their understanding and bonds
them to their heritage.

The LCO first began holding restoration projects in the Aterpatakan
region of northwest Iran and eventually spread its activities to
Kessab in Syria, Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. This year, the LCO is
proud to be celebrating 15 years of activity in Armenia. A few of our
past projects were the reconstruction of the St. Astvadzazin Church
(Holy Mother of God) in Gogaran, the renovation of the St. Minas
Church in Tatev and the restoration of the Saghmosavank Monastery in
the Ashtarak Region. The LCO has also completed social assistance and
economic projects such as the building of solar fruit dryers in
Madrasa (now called Dprevan) and last year in Ayroum, a refugee
village located in the Northern part of the country near the Georgian

The LCO has also been very active in the Nagorno Karabakh Republic
(NKR) since 1997, when it adopted the war-torn village of
Karintak. This village, situated below the rock on which the town of
Shushi sits, has earned the reputation of being a heroic village,
particularly during the clashes for the liberation of Shushi by
Armenian forces. The four-year project included the renovation of
their cultural center, the village church, its kindergarten and
finally its school. Since 2001, the LCO has renovated vital parts of
the Shushi polyclinic and General Hospital, including the Delivery
Room, the Maternity Ward and several hospital rooms. In 2003, the LCO
volunteers undertook the renovation of the water pipeline which
provides the hospital with running water and the septic system.

The work sites and projects approved for 2004 during its Annual
Assembly held in Paris in February of this year, the International
Union of Land and Culture Organizations selected (1) the
reconstruction of the school in the refugee village of Shatvan located
in the Vartenis region of Armenia; (2) the continuing effort to
renovate the operating rooms of the Shushi Hospital, and (3),
continuation of our ongoing restoration work in Kessab, Syria.

The reconstruction of the village school in the refugee community of
Shatvan located to the east of Lake Sevan in the province of
Gegharkunik is one of the 34 villages in the Vartenis area that was
predominantly settled by Azeris during the soviet years. As of late
1988, the village of Shatvan has been repopulated by Armenian refugees
who have arrived from 33 different parts of Azerbaijan. The total
number of the current population is 834. The main concern is to
provide the basics for young families to help them settle down
permanently, and as such the village school is a major
priority. Currently it has 114 students with a staff of 20. The
building is in a very dangerous state. The roof is completely damaged
and parts of the floor on both levels are to be replaced. The
renovation of this building demands immediate attention.

The second project is in Nagorno Karabagh. There, LCO will continue
its commitment to the Regional Hospital of Shushi. This picturesque
town which had a population of 17,000 inhabitants before the war, is
now home to only 3000 people. While this is a huge building, it only
needs to cater to 3000-5000 people. In consultation with the chief
physician, Dr Vigen Khachadryan, and the Minister of health Zoya
Balayan, it was decided that only the East Wing of the hospital would
be restored and all the wards would be concentrated there. This
summer, it is expected that our volunteers will renovate the operating

As for our third site, we will continue our restoration work of the
houses in Kessab that represent typical Armenian architecture. Last
year, twenty-five LCO volunteers renovated a house that is destined to
become an Armenian ethnographic museum. Kessab is a small
Armenian-populated town in Syria, near the Mediterranean Sea. It dates
back to the Cilician Kingdom. The LCO has been holding campaigns in
Kessab for the last 14 years. For 2004, LCO will complete this
project. The campaign in Kessab is held only during the month of

We have already started accepting volunteer applications for these
campaigns and invite volunteers to join us and take a month off this
summer to “Explore – Dream – Discover” Armenia. The effort is
voluntary, the results are far reaching! The deadline to apply for the
campaigns of July and August is May 21, 2004. You will be able to
download all application information and forms from our website or by
asking us to mail you a volunteer package. All applicants must be a
minimum of 18 years of age to be considered. We are also looking to
fill two site leader positions. These positions are open only to
returning LCO participants. For information about applying for a site
leader position, please contact the Projects Coordinator at
[email protected]. The deadline for these positions is April
30, 2004.

For more information about the Land and Culture Organization an dour
activities in the Aterpatakan region, Kessab, Armenia and Nagorno
Karabagh, please visit or contact us at
1-888-LCO-1555 or write to [email protected].

Serj Sargssyan’s Brother’s Body-Guards Beat Journalists

A1 Plus | 16:01:27 | 06-04-2004 | Politics |


“Body-guards of Sashik Sargssyan, brother of Serj Sargssyan, were the main
provokers of yesterday meeting”, “National Unity” Party Chair Artashes
Geghamyan announced at the press conference in the party office.

According to him, the body-guards of other oligarchs were “just watchers”.
Mr Geghamyan has appealed to the Embassies in Armenia over the incidents
occurred in “Nairi” Cinema yesterday. In the appeal he accused “the most
intimate oligarchs of Armenian President” who have attacked journalists.

“All these are the logical continuation of Poghos Poghosyan’s murder by
Robert Kocharyan’s body-guards”, Geghamyan said in the letter to the

He announced that the Armenian Authorities merged with the criminal
elements. “We expect support of USA and Russia in the situations we have”,
Geghamyan said at the end of the letter.

He added that the arrests are senseless since Authorities arrest even those
who have held the flag of Armenia at the rallies.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Political Standoff Deepens As Opposition Snubs Government Offers

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
April 6 2004

Armenia: Political Standoff Deepens As Opposition Snubs Government
By Jean-Christophe Peuch

President Kocharian is likely to face increased pressure

Confrontation between the Armenian government and the opposition
deepened yesterday as the country’s two main opposition political
groups said they would proceed with plans to step up pressure on
President Robert Kocharian in a bid to secure his departure. The
announcement came as several opposition activists were being detained
in connection with an investigation into recent anti-Kocharian
rallies across the country.

Prague, 6 April 2004 (RFE/RL) — Addressing reporters in Yerevan
yesterday, the leader of the opposition Justice (Artarutyun)
alliance, Stepan Demirchian, said he and his allies were calling
supporters to massively demonstrate against President Kocharian in
Yerevan on 9 April. Demirchian said the planned rally was set to mark
the beginning of a massive nationwide anti-government campaign.

Justice, which has been regularly boycotting parliamentary sessions
in recent months, accuses the Armenian leader of “usurping power” and
“clamping down on freedom of expression.”

At the core of the dispute are last year’s presidential and
legislative polls, which saw the victory of Kocharian and his allies.
Justice and other opposition groups claim the vote was rigged and
insist that the president be put to a national vote of confidence.
The government has denied any wrongdoing in the elections.

Anxious to avoid a political crisis over the disputed elections,
Armenia’s Constitutional Court last year signaled the constitution
could, in principle, be amended in a way that would allow for a
national referendum on confidence. But government supporters in the
National Assembly (parliament) rejected the idea, saying it had no
legal basis.

One of the three partners in the ruling coalition, the Dashnaktsutyun
Armenian Revolutionary Federation, yesterday demanded that the
opposition cease to question Kocharian’s legitimacy. In return, the
nationalist party said, Justice and its allies should be given seats
in the National Security Council to have a say in domestic affairs.

A Dashnaktsutyun statement said only dialogue would help prevent what
it called “open confrontation.”

But Justice leader Demirchian yesterday rejected the offer, saying
the opposition would accept nothing less than the confidence vote.

“How could we possibly talk about dialogue when opposition members
are being arrested? Arrests are actions inherent with a junta. A real
dialogue would have been to call for a national referendum on
confidence [in Kocharian]. However, there is still room for
introducing constitutional amendments that would pave the way for
such a referendum,” Demirchian said.

Demirchian went on to say the opposition was determined to pursue its
anti-Kocharian campaign regardless of offers made on behalf of the
government and despite counter-steps taken by the authorities.

“I understand the fears of Dashnaktsutyun. The situation in the
country is indeed tense. But the opposition has never asked for any
government post,” Demirchian said. “What we want is that
constitutional order in the country be restored.”

On 31 March, the Prosecutor’-General’s Office in Yerevan launched
criminal proceedings against Justice and its allies, which it blamed
for a series of recent unsanctioned rallies that purportedly called
for a violent change of regime and using what it said was “offensive
language” against senior government officials.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office yesterday said Suren Sureniants of
the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party — a leading member of
the Justice alliance — was arrested in connection with the

Hanrapetutyun spokesman Artak Hakobian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service
that Sureniants was arrested in a village nearby Yerevan and brought
to the capital for questioning. The Prosecutor-General’s Office said
no formal charges had been brought against him yet.

Hakobian also said opposition activists were being detained in many
Armenian regions.

“Today we’ve been receiving phone calls from our people in Yeghvard,
Charentsavan, Stepanavan, Vanadzor, and Gyumri. People are being
either summoned or taken to the police. Some of them are being
released, some are being put into custody,” Hakobian said.

Addressing reporters in Yerevan today, police chief Nerses Nazarian
said nearly 40 opposition activists have been apprehended. He did not
say whether charges were brought against them or how long they would
remain in custody.

Meanwhile, representatives of ruling coalition parties have justified
the detentions.

Dashnaktsutyun member Vahan Hovanessian yesterday said authorities
“have the right to take necessary steps to isolate people
transporting weapons and other instruments that could be used in
possible clashes.”

Republican Party member Tigran Torosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian
Service that harassment of the opposition will stop once it ceases
its anti-Kocharian campaign.

Opposition activists yesterday took to the streets of central Yerevan
to demand that the president step down and that a national referendum
be organized.

Estimates put the number of participants at between 3,000 and 8,000.

Media reports say unidentified youths smashed cameras belonging to
several journalists at the rally near the Matenadaran Library. Also,
eggs and stones were thrown at the protesters from nearby balconies.
No serious clashes were reported, however.

National Unity party leader Artashes Geghamian, who led yesterday’s
protest, claimed the authorities were unwilling to compromise with
the opposition.

“Had authorities called off police from the Matenadaran area, agreed
to come with us to meet with voters, or shown their goodwill [in any
other from], that would have been a starting point for cooperation.
But instead, they attempted to close bridges and roads leading to
Yerevan,” Geghamian said.

Despite uneasy relations stemming from last year’s presidential
polls, Geghamian and Justice leader Demirchian recently forged an
alliance aimed at securing Kocharian’s ouster.

(Ruzanna Khachatrian and Armen Doulian of RFE/RL’s Armenian Service
contributed to this report.)

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Police says bomb alert call was false

April 6 2004


YEREVAN, APRIL 6, ARMENPRESS: An unidentified man called today at
noon to police saying a bomb was planted in an open-air market in
Heratsi street in down Yerevan, which he said would explode at 3 pm.
Police arrived at the spot to cordon off the area around the
market and after a thorough check it found no bomb. Police said it is
now working to identify the man who made the false alert.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Yerevan police chief denies charges of inactivity

April 6 2004


YEREVAN, APRIL 6, ARMENPRESS: A senior police officer denied today
opposition’s accusations that the police did not prevent attacks of a
group of sturdily-built young men, most of them with shaven heads, on
journalists smashing their cameras and knocking them off their feet
at a Monday rally in central Yerevan, organized by Artashes
Geghamian’s National Unity.
Chief of Yerevan police department, Nerses Nazarian, told a group
of journalists that “as usual, the police took all measures to
maintain order.”
Nazarian argued that the violence occurred 15 minutes before the
rally started, following Geghamian’s requests that the demonstrators
should gather near Nairi cinema house, as a hillside near Matenadaran
depository of old manuscripts, the planned venue of the protest
action, was occupied by police. Nazarian said the movement of
participants raised the indignation of nearby houses’ residents and
owners of shops, who “were dragged into the rally against their
will,” disrupting also the traffic.
He also said police officers were instructed to interfere only in
case of real threats to exclude offensive language and curse directed
at them. The police chief said the fistfight was prompted by
disagreements among participants of the rally. Nazarian said police
will investigate into the reported instances of violence and admitted
also that scores of people, participating in opposition’s rallies,
whom he described as “aggressive”, were summoned to police to be
explained that their demeanor poses threat to public order.
Nazarian said all those participants of future rallies who will
violate public law will be detained and punished in line with law.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Armenian press condemns attacks on reporters covering Opp. rally

Armenian press body condemns attacks on reporters covering opposition rally

Mediamax news agency
6 Apr 04


The National Press Club of Armenia (NPC) issued a statement today,
condemning attacks on journalists by unidentified people during an
opposition rally in central Yerevan on 5 April.

During the rally, 15 to 20 young people with an athletic build
attacked the filming crews of the Armenian Public TV and the private
TV companies Kentron, HY Noyan Tapan and Shant, and reporters of
Aravot and Aykakan Zhamanak newspapers. They deliberately broke video
and photo cameras that belonged to the abovementioned mass media.

“This odious step is directed against freedom of speech and pursues
one aim – to hamper the reporting of unbiased information about the
developments in Armenia,” the NPC statement read.

The NPC demanded that the Armenian authorities punish the perpetrators
of the attack on the journalists and prevent such incidents in the

The authors of the statement also appealed “to respect their
professional duty” to those journalists who the NPC said “have
distorted facts thus rendering support to the bandits”.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

CIS countries to hold joint air-defence exercise

CIS countries to hold joint air-defence exercise

ITAR-TASS news agency
6 Apr 04


Over 100 military units and subunits of the CIS countries’ unified
air-defence system will be taking part in command-and-staff training.

ITAR-TASS was told today by the head of the Russian Air Force press
service, Col Aleksandr Drobyshevskiy, that “on Wednesday 7 April there
will be command-and-staff training under the leadership of
Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force Army Gen Vladimir
Mikhaylov – the chairman of the coordinating committee of the CIS
countries’ air defence – and involving management bodies and duty
forces of the unified air-defence system of the member states of the

The training will be directed from the central command post of the
Russian Air Force.

“During the training, about 10 different points will be practised,
relating to the improvement of the CIS unified air-defence system,”
Drobyshevskiy said. “More than 100 units and subunits of the air
forces and air-defence forces of the CIS countries and 80 aircraft
will be taking part in the training.”

Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine,
Uzbekistan and Russia are taking part in the command-and-staff
training of the CIS unified air-defence system.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

BAKU: Armenian troops desert their units in Karabakh

Armenian servicemen desert their units in Karabakh

Ayna, Baku
6 Apr 04

By Casur Mammadov

Starting from this year, the number of deserters among Armenian
soldiers stationed in Nagornyy Karabakh and other occupied Azerbaijani
districts has reached yet unseen figures.

According to Armenian sources, over the last two months a total of 94
Armenian servicemen have deserted regiments stationed in Nagornyy
Karabakh. This brings the number of deserters from the “Karabakh army”
to a total of 5,000 people since 1994. The sources say that a
significant portion of the deserters – 1,400 people – have fled to

According to another report available to us, the stand-off between the
Nagornyy Karabakh and the Armenian troops stationed in the occupied
Azerbaijani territories has become extremely intense. The report says
that this confrontation is particularly fierce on the
Armenian-occupied part of Azerbaijan’s Fuzuli District. For instance,
a recent exchange of fire registered in this area between two brigades
claimed the lives of several Armenian servicemen. Karabakh Armenians
put the blame for the incident on the Armenian military command.

Passage omitted: minor details

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

BAKU: MPs concerned at possible opening of Turkish-Armenian border

Azeri MPs concerned at possible opening of Turkish-Armenian border

ANS TV, Baku
6 Apr 04

Today’s session of the Azerbaijani parliament discussed the
probability of opening the Turkish-Armenian border.

MPs said they should support Turkey which had come under the West’s
pressure. Baku should invite the Turkish speaker to Baku. The
parliament should appeal to the international public, the European
Union and the Council of Europe over the issue.

Azerbaijani Speaker Murtuz Alasgarov said that the opening of the
border would deal a blow to Turkish-Azerbaijani relations.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress