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Vardenis Mayor: “Our people don’t have the right to die, to get baptized and married”

May 23, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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13:47, May 23, 2015

Cultivable lands in the Aragatzotn village of Vardenis are turning to asphalt.

Village residents no longer work the land to the degree they once did. They don’t have access to the necessary farm equipment.

Kamo Petrosyan, the mayor of Vardenis, says that the plan to construct an equipment depot in the village for use by surrounding communities has since been shelved. What remains are tractors that are thirty years old and barely kept going.

Vardenis, a village of 604 residents just three kilometers from Abaran, is seeing more and more people working abroad in Russia, according to municipality accountant Balabek Petrosyan.

Mayor Petrosyan tells me that only a small fraction of the community’s 2,000 hectares of land is being cultivated.

RISE Moldova Investigation Traces Politician’s Ties to Businesses

May 21, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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23:50, May 21, 2015

After analyzing more than 1,000 documents, IP addresses and servers, OCCRP partner RISE Moldova has revealed previously unknown detailsabout a prominent Moldovan politician’s relationship to the media and to a lucrative real estate empire.

The investigation concluded that Vladimir Plahotniuc, a member of Moldova’s Parliament and an influential businessman, is closely connected to a network of business and media interests worth more than US$ 50 million.

Documents show that Finpar Invest SRL, a company controlled at various times by Plahotniuc’s wife and sister, owned some of the most prominent hotels and real estate in Chisinau. In 2005, his relatives transferred their shares into what became a network of offshore companies.

Armenian Governor ‘Shot At’ In His Car

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Law-enforcement authorities in Armenia said late on Wednesday that an unknown gunman opened fire on a car carrying Suren Khachatrian, the governor of the southeastern Syunik province notorious for violent conduct.

According to the Investigative Committee, Khachatrian, his driver and assistant came under fire on the road connecting the regional capital Kapan to Goris, the governor’s hometown also located in Syunik. “Nobody was hurt,” the committee said in a statement.

The statement added that Yerevan-based senior officers from the committee and the Armenian police rushed to the scene immediately after the reported shooting. “Necessary investigative measures are being taken to clarify all circumstances of the incident,” it said.

ERBD Loans Armenia €3.5 Million for Kotayk Solid Waste Management Project

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14:42, May 20, 2015

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) has provided a €3.5 million fifteen year loan to the Republic of Armenia for the construction of the first EU compliant regional landfill and relevant infrastructure in the country.

The landfill will be located in Hrazdan, capital of Armenia’s Kotayk Province, and will be used by eight municipalities in the nearby region – Hrazdan, Abovyan, Charentsavan, Yeghvard, Nor Hajin, Tzaghadzor, Byureghavan and Sevan (Gegharkunik Province).  

The solid waste management project will also include the acquisition of vehicles, bins and equipment for waste management.  

In addition, the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility (“NIF”) has approved a grant in the amount of €3.5 million to provide co-financing for the Project.

Iraq, Syria Sharply Boost Armenian Cigarette Exports

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Exports of Armenian cigarettes continued to grow rapidly last year thanks to a near-doubling of their deliveries to Iraq and Syria, their principal markets abroad, according to government statistics.

Data from the Armenian customs service revealed by Hetq.am shows a more than 71 percent surge in cigarette exports that totaled $116.6 million in 2014. They stood at just $16.3 million in 2011.

The Iraqi market generated over two-thirds of the Armenian tobacco industry’s total export revenue. This explains why Armenia’s trade with Iraq rose by almost 39 percent to $106 million in 2014.

PM’s Son Transfers Supermarket Stock in Run-Up to Artashat Mayor’s Race

May 20, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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12:08, May 20, 2015

Like many top government officials in Armenia, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan attempted to conceal his business holdings from public scrutiny by using family members as surrogates.

Many Abrahamyan businesses were registered in the name of the son Argam and wife Julieta.

After Hetq revealed these links, the prime minister’s son and wife pulled out of several companies in which they were stakeholders.

Take Artashat Plaza for example – the largest supermarket in the town of Artashat. When it opened its doors last October, Argam Abrahamyan was the 100% owner. Just a few days later the stock was transferred to Gohar Voskanyan, who hails from the same village as the prime sinister.

How to Stay Connected Without the Internet

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18:07, May 18, 2015

Often, we read about how internet access is restricted in some country or other, especially during times of civil unrest.

When the Green Movement took off in Iran after the 2009 presidential election, and the government launched similar restrictions, Armine Saidi and David Esteves thought of ways to bypass such restrictions and make communication independent of the internet and cellular links.

Years later, the WiCastr company (now operating in Armenia as well), is offering equipment that contains large amounts of information – documents, videos, games, etc. Such material is accessible in a fifty meter radius by using equipment linked to its network that is capable of connecting to the WiFi; for example, smart phones. 

Tsarukian Set To Retain Control Over Armenian Town

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In what appears to be another consolation prize granted to him by the Armenian government, businessman Gagik Tsarukian is likely to retain de facto control over a town near Yerevan that has long been his political and economic stronghold.

Voters in Abovian will go to the polls on June 7 to elect a successor to Karapet Guloyan, the town’s previous mayor and Tsarukian’s son-in-law who was promoted last month to become governor of the surrounding Kotayk province.

The government named Guloyan to run Kotayk almost one month after Tsarukian stepped down as leader of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and retired from active politics under strong pressure from President Serzh Sarkisian.

Permissible Violations: Armenia’s Motkor Forest Being Felled for Lumber

May 19, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Business No Comments
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13:29, May 19, 2015

Trucks transporting felled young hornbeam trees are freely leaving the forest in Ahnidzor.

On May 17, this reporter was unable to track down the driver of a truck loaded with wood outside a home at the entrance to the village. The truck had no license plate. Cut lumber was scattered near the truck.

At around 3pm another truck loaded with lumber entered the village. The driver made out that he didn’t see our signal to stop and drove on.

Two trucks, this time with plates, were seen some 200 meters from the intersection of the Lorout and Ahnidzor villages, near the former Lorout cheese factory. They too were loaded with lumber.

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Featured Books

Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

Commentary

Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.