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Ter-Petrosian Urges Regime Change, Backs Customs Union Entry

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Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian demanded President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation but stopped short of announcing a new campaign of non-stop anti-government protests as he rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan for the first time in almost a year on Saturday.

Ter-Petrosian made clear that his Armenian National Congress (HAK) needs the support of other major opposition forces, including Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), to take advantage of what he described as an “extremely favorable moment” for regime change.

Addressing his supporters on the sixth anniversary of a deadly post-election unrest, the former president also voiced support for Armenia’s accession to the Russian-led Customs Union. “Clearly, Armenia’s membership of the Customs Union is irreversible and European integration impossible in the foreseeable future,” he declared in what looked like a fresh overture to Moscow.

Ukrainian ex-leader Yanukovych vows fightback

March 1, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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Ukraine’s ex-President Yanukovych has made his first public appearance since being ousted, telling a news conference in Russia he would fight for his country, the BBC reports.Mr Yanukovych said he was “not overthrown”, but was compelled to leave Ukraine after threats to his life.He said the current parliament was “illegitimate”, and described those who drove him from power as “young neo-fascist thugs” representing only a minority of Ukrainians.Mr Yanukovych was ousted on Saturday, after a sustained campaign by protesters ended in a bloody crackdown.Tensions have risen since he stepped down, especially in the Crimea region.On Friday, Ukraine accused Russia of carrying out an “armed invasion” there, by sending naval forces to occupy Sevastopol airport.”I intend to continue to struggle for the future of Ukraine, against terror and fear,” Mr Yanokovych said.”What’s going on now is lawlessness, lack of authority, and terror. Decisions in parliament were taken under duress,” he said. “I can’t find words to characterize this new authority. These are people who advocate violence – the Ukrainian parliament is illegitimate.”He said the only way out of the crisis was to implement in full the agreement he signed last week with opposition leaders and three European foreign ministers in Kiev.The news conference is being held in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, near the Ukrainian border.Mr Yanukoych disappeared after leaving office but resurfaced in Russia on Thursday, asserting that he was still Ukraine’s lawful president.Earlier on Friday, Ukraine’s general prosecutor said he would ask Russia to extradite Mr Yanukovych. 

Armenia-Georgia: Sargsyan says different geopolitical courses no impediment to neighbors’ cooperation

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Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili on February 27 arrived in Armenia on a two-day official visit at the invitation of his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan. Before that, Margvelashvili visited Ankara and Baku.

None of the three visits has brought sensational news. Statements after the meetings were mostly balanced and declared intentions to deepen cooperation. The meeting between the presidents in Yerevan was no exception, except for the fact that President Sargsyan stated that the different geopolitical courses of Armenia and Georgia will not impede cooperation between the two countries.

Ties With Georgia ‘Unaffected’ By Armenian Policy Change

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Armenia’s decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union will not have an adverse impact on relations with neighboring Georgia, President Serzh Sarkisian and his visiting Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili said after talks on Thursday.

Margvelashvili met Sarkisian as he made his first official visit to Yerevan since succeeding Mikheil Saakashvili as Georgia’s president last November.

Implications of Armenia’s impeding membership of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan were apparently high on the agenda of the talks. Sarkisian said he briefed Margvelashvili on reasons for his decision last August to seek such membership. He seemed to single out the economic dimension of joining a trade bloc which Moscow plans to transform into a Eurasian Union next year.

Police abuse a serious threat to the rule of law: senior European official

February 27, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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A senior Council of Europe official has urged states to develop effective means of stamping out police misconduct, citing the excessive use of police force during protests in European countries, including Ukraine and Turkey, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.“In recent months, Europe has witnessed several glaring instances in which policing of demonstrations has gone beyond what is legally and ethically acceptable,” Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a Feb. 25 statement, citing the excessive use of force by police during recent protests in Ukraine and last year’s Gezi Park protests in Turkey.“In the context of the 2013 Gezi events in Turkey, I received numerous and particularly serious allegations of excessive use of force by the police, including excessive and improper use of tear gas and the use of gas canisters as projectiles,” said Muiznieks.He said the excessive use of force by police against peaceful demonstrators in late November 2013 in Ukraine had since resulted in a growing number of deaths among both protestors and police. “After interviewing numerous victims and examining many medical records, I detected a clear pattern of targeting the head and face, which is completely unnecessary and disproportionate.”He also said the police repeatedly targeted both journalists and medical personnel, “who could clearly be identified by their clothing” in both Ukraine and Turkey. The commissioner also criticized the violence targeting minorities, in particular Roma, and migrants, by the police particularly in Greece and France.Muiznieks urged states to use “effective means” to combat such police misconduct. “This is an essential requirement for restoring the public’s trust in state authority and safeguarding human rights and the rule of law,” he said.He also urged states to “develop clear guidelines concerning the proportionate use of force by police,” including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon and firearms in the context of demonstrations, in line with international standards.Riot police officers must be obliged to display identification numbers in a way which makes them visible from a distance, said Muiznieks.He called on European states to “combat impunity for human rights violations committed by law enforcement officials” so that victims could receive justice, saying this would also prevent future misconduct by law enforcement officials and increase the public trust in and cooperation with law enforcement.“It is of the utmost importance that all allegations of police misconduct are effectively investigated so as to lead to the identification and punishment of those responsible,” he said.
 

Armenia-EU Ties Unchanged, Says Sarkisian

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President Serzh Sarkisian claimed on Wednesday that his decision to make Armenia part of a Russian-led union of ex-Soviet states has not damaged relations with the European Union.

Sarkisian was quoted by his press office saying that “nothing has changed in those relations” at a meeting with Greece’s visiting parliament speaker, Vangelis Meimarakis.

The Armenian government and the EU are continuing to make “joint efforts to further deepen their partnership,” he said, according to a statement released by the office. He argued that his National Security Council approved on Tuesday a plan of joint actions for 2014 and 2015 agreed with the EU’s executive body, the European Commission.

Wife of Georgian Driver Arrested for Smuggling Heroin: ‘My husband is innocent’

February 26, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Georgia, Turkey No Comments
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17:43, February 25, 2014

The wife of a man driving a truck in which 928 kilos of heroin were found by Meghri customs officials on January 17 says her husband is innocent.

Avtandil Martiashvili, the driver, had entered Armenia from Iran and was headed for Georgia. He was arrested on the spot and charged with drug smuggling. A Turkish citizen, Osman Oğurlu, was arrested several days later in Yerevan as an accomplice.

Hetq today spoke with the driver’s wife Leyla Martiashvili.

What do you know about what happened to your husband?

Press Persecution In Azerbaijan: Where Investigative Journalism Is “Espionage”

February 26, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Azerbaijan, Europe, Video No Comments
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13:20, February 26, 2014

By Ana Baric

Azerbaijan is maintaining its usual approach to press “freedom”: sponsoring pro-regime media and unapologetically repressing critical journalism.

Ismayilova’s Story

In the past week authorities have been interrogating an Azerbaijani journalist who appears to have become a go-to target for press intimidation: OCCRP partner and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondent Khadija Ismayilova.

Ismayilova was first brought into the Azerbaijan’s General Prosecutor’s office on Feb. 18  for questioning related to an alleged leak of state secrets to Congressional aides who prosecutors claim were actually US intelligence agents. 

OCCRP partner and RFE/RL correspondent Khadija Ismayilova. Source: Facebook

According to Radio Free Europe, several pro-government media outlets claimed that she handed over files on Azerbaijani opposition politicians.

Russia is right to be upset over events in Ukraine – Financial Times

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By Georgy Mirsky
Ukraine’s role is pivotal to the great Russian state – whether yesterday’s Soviet Union or today’s federation. Two decades ago, I told my foreign colleagues that the USSR could survive without any of its 14 other republics. I have no doubt it collapsed when Ukrainians voted in a referendum in favour of independence in 1991.
The reason is not the economy. Ukraine was the most industrially advanced of all the Soviet republics, yet Russia can do without it.Ukraine badly needs Russian oil and gas, yet no disaster is in sight even if Moscow breaks its economic ties with Kyiv altogether, which is highly unlikely.
Nor is sentiment paramount despite the heritage of Kyiv as “the mother of Russian cities” and the sieges of Sebastopol during the Crimean war and the war against Nazi Germany 72 years ago. Historical memory cannot be erased, and most Russians believe that Ukrainians are just a part of the Russian nation.
Rather, the main reason for Russian sensitivity is geopolitics. One of the causes of anti-American feeling is the deep and bitter frustration borne of the conviction that Russia has been marginalised. Its former allies in eastern Europe and the Baltic states are not only gone but quite unfriendly toward Moscow.
In Asia, an incomprehensible and unpredictable China is calling the shots. In the Middle East, most former partners and footholds have disappeared. For years, official propaganda has been doing its best to convince the population that the west, that eternal enemy of Russia, has not renounced its sinister designs. Worse, it looks as though at least some of Russia’s top leaders or their advisers share this conviction.
The cold war zero-sum game mentality is by no means dead. Russia’s leaders regard the west, particularly the US, with much suspicion. They do not believe that Washington is bent on war, but they assume that, given an opportunity, the Americans will never miss a chance to do something nasty to Russia.
Ukraine is far more important to Russia than Georgia, where six years ago the Kremlin was ready to go war rather than lose face. In Ukraine, just like in Syria, the bottom line is to avoid being seen to back down under American pressure. Even a partitioned Ukraine is better than a pro-western one. The propaganda line is that the whole circus has been organised by NATO with the aim of snatching a great and important country from Moscow’s grip. The domestic audience is told that the west’s real purpose is moving NATO’s military bases closer to Russia’s heartland.
This is why it is easy to understand that official Moscow is terribly disappointed with the way things have turned out in Ukraine, primarily because it is afraid that Victor Yanukovich’s ouster will be regarded in the world as Russia’s defeat. Some feel President Vladimir Putin has been humiliated since he had allegedly tried to buy Yanukovich and failed.
The game is far from over. Russia’s best hope appears to be Ukrainian extreme nationalists, just as in Syria al-Qaeda, the Shias’ mortal enemy, serves President Bashar al-Assad to frighten away both moderate Syrians and the west. 

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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.

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

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Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

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Source: HetqOriginial Article

For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests

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The struggle of civil movements this year has been comprehensive and diverse with limited success in certain fields due to unified efforts and active involvement of the civil society.

Despite the rather passive start of the year in terms of civil movements, the second half of 2013 turned out to be tense with active developments.

Some analysts believe that especially after the February 18 presidential ballot, when current president Serzh Sargsyan won a decisive victory over his opponents and was re-elected for a second term, despite the widespread poverty and atmosphere of injustice in the country, people became even more aware of the fact that is it impossible to achieve changes via elections and started practicing their constitutional rights to civil protest and disobedience more frequently.

Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

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2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.

Heritage reshuffle: Postanjyan becomes new leader of parliamentary faction

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Zaruhi Postanjyan has been elected new head of the opposition Heritage faction in parliament. The change comes after Ruben Hakobyan announced his decision to resign as faction leader earlier today.

Talking to media in parliament Hakobyan said Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian had been notified about his move well in advance. He left questions about reasons for his step without commentary, only saying that he had decided to step down as faction leader before the recent scandal around Postanjyan in the wake of her controversial question to President Serzh Sargsyan about his gambling habit at the PACE plenary session in Strasbourg on October 2.