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Hollande in bid to boost Caucasus ties amid Ukraine crisis

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French President Francois Hollande starts a three-day visit to the South Caucasus on Sunday as he seeks to bolster European ties on Russia’s southern doorstep amid the crisis in Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reports.Hollande was due to arrive in the Azerbaijani capital Baku around 6:00 pm (1300 GMT) Sunday, on the same day separatists in eastern Ukraine held referendums on breaking away from the country.His visit is unlikely to be welcomed in Moscow, which has long considered the ex-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia to be in its sphere of influence.French officials insisted the visit is not confrontational and aimed only at boosting the European Union’s relations in the region.”We do not see this work for closer ties with the European Union as against Russia,” a source in Hollande’s office said.”This is not a combative visit, but one aimed at promoting closer ties,” the source said.Hollande will meet Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev before heading to Armenia on Monday and Georgia on Tuesday.Like Ukraine, all three countries have sought closer ties with Europe, with Georgia going so far as to seek to join the NATO military alliance.Hollande’s visit to the Georgian capital Tbilisi is especially sensitive in the wake of the 2008 Georgia-Russia war over the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.The EU is keen to sign “Eastern Partnership” political and trade agreements with ex-Soviet countries, including those in the South Caucasus.Much of the focus of Hollande’s visit will be on economic ties, in particular in Azerbaijan, where European companies are heavily involved in the country’s energy industry.In Armenia he will focus as well on cultural ties, attending a concert Monday by Charles Aznavour, the French crooner of Armenian origin, and dedicating a square to Missak Manouchian, a French-Armenian poet and resistance fighter who was executed by the Nazis.There are some 500,000 French of Armenian descent and the community is an important political constituency.Hollande will also discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute with the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, after years of fruitless negotiations on resolving the frozen conflict.Along with Russia and the United States, France has for 20 years been trying to mediate a peace deal in the conflict.The conflict has simmered on, with frequent exchanges of gunfire and vows from Baku to retake the region by force. 

Lithuanians elect president as 2015 Euro adoption nears

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Dalia Grybauskaite is set to win re-election as Lithuania’s president today, getting a mandate to lead the nation into the euro area next year, Bloomberg reports.
Grybauskaite, the first female president in the nation of 2.94 million, leads six other candidates in the race for a five-year term, opinion polls show. Voting starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m. First results are expected around 10 p.m.
Lithuanians are picking their head of state as the Baltic nation prepares for euro adoption on Jan. 1. She has supported the government’s austerity efforts to cut a budget gap and qualify for euro adoption during her term in office.
“We’re fully prepared to join the club that makes economic decisions in Europe,” Grybauskaite said during her campaign on Lithuania’s readiness to adopt the euro. The nation is ready to sit at the decision-making “table and not be left behind.”
The incumbent had 41 percent support, compared with 16 percent for her closest rival and former Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis, according to an April 11-24 poll for ELTA by Baltijos Tyrimai polling agency that interviewed 1,001 people. The margin of error was 3 percent.
To win the presidency in today’s first round, Grybauskaite has to garner more than 50 percent of votes cast with turnout of at least 50 percent, or get one third of all eligible votes if turnout is below 50 percent. If she fails to do so, the winner will be picked in the second and final round on May 25.
Grybauskaite, an independent candidate, is the country’s former finance minister and had also served as a European Union budget commissioner.
In Lithuania, the president is responsible for foreign policy, nominates cabinets for parliamentary approval, appoints judges and has the right to veto laws.
Some 5 percent of eligible voters have already cast ballots in early voting this week, the chief Election Committee said in a statement on May 9.

Russian Envoy Stands By Controversial Remarks

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Armenia – Russian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volynkin.

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Russia’s show of military might in pictures

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15:47 • 09/05
Prosperous Armenia party delegation visits Victory Park

15:14 • 09/05
Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin flies to Crimea

14:50 • 09/05
‘I’ll never backtrack’ – Ivan Volynkin

14:25 • 09/05
Armenia’s premier determined to do his best for equal economic conditions

14:09 • 09/05
Serzh Sargsyan attends in Victory Day events in Karabakh (photos)

13:47 • 09/05
Renowned composer Konstantin Orbelyan to be buried in Armenia

13:39 • 09/05
Russia’s show of military might in pictures

13:34 • 09/05
Armenia’s first president joins victory celebrations

13:27 • 09/05
Victory Day celebrated in Yerevan Victory Park

13:10 • 09/05
US Embassy to Armenia responds to criticism over Warlick’s speech

Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin flies to Crimea

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President Vladimir Putin has flown to Crimea, which Russia annexed in March, amid celebrations of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, the BBC reports.In a speech in Moscow earlier, Mr Putin paid tribute to World War Two heroes and vowed to defend the “motherland”.German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said it would be a pity if Mr Putin used the anniversary to visit Crimea.Meanwhile, reports say several people died in a shoot-out between Ukrainian troops and separatists in Mariupol.Mr Putin, addressing thousands in Moscow’s Red Square during a huge hour-long military parade, did not mention Ukraine in his speech.He told the crowd that 9 May, known as Victory Day in Russia, was a “day of grief and eternal memory” and stressed how the “iron will of the Soviet people” had saved Europe from slavery.”It is a holiday when an overwhelming force of patriotism triumphs, when all of us feel particularly acutely what it means to be loyal to the motherland and how important it is to defend its interests,” he said.
 

Sarkisian Reaffirms Pro-Russian Stance On Ukraine

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Russia – President Vladimir Putin meets with his visiting Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian, Moscow, 8May2014.

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Supporters of Man Accused of Domestic Violence Attack Hetq Reporter and Activists

May 8, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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17:35, May 7, 2014

Following Wednesday’s court hearing of a man accused of assaulting his wife, former leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Robert Aharonyan and others attacked a Hetq journalist and NGO representatives who are supporting the defendant’s wife. 

The trial currently underway at the Gegharkunik District Court of First Instance involves 27 year-old Hasmik Khachatryan, a resident of the village of Gandzak in the Gavar region, who has taken her husband, 33-year-old SargisHakobyan, to court on assault charges.

Many in the region, and even Yerevan, know of the Hakobyan family by way of Sargis’ mother, Varsik, a prominent fortune teller. 

Ukraine crisis: Russia’s Putin ‘backs’ 25 May election

May 7, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says Ukraine’s presidential election on 25 May is a step “in the right direction,” the BBC reports.But he said the 25 May vote would decide nothing unless the rights of “all citizens” were protected.Mr Putin also urged pro-Russian activists in south-eastern Ukraine to call off a series of independence referendums planned for this weekend.It comes amid high tension between Russia and Kiev, and its allies in the West, over the crisis in Ukraine.Moscow says it will protect the rights of the largely Russian-speaking people in the south and east against what it calls an undemocratic government in Kiev.Kiev has rejected pro-Russian activists’ demands for greater autonomy, fearing it could lead to the break-up of the country.Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in February by pro-Western protesters.Earlier on Wednesday, pro-Russian separatists seized back the city hall in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol after it was briefly taken over by Ukrainian government forces.President Putin was speaking after talks in Moscow with Didier Burkhalter, the Swiss president and current chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).In what appeared to be a softer stance than in recent weeks, Mr Putin said he had pulled back Russian forces from the border with Ukraine after “we were told constantly about concerns” over their positioning.He said the troops were now “in places of regular exercises, at training grounds”.Mr Putin also said he had appealed for the referendums on greater autonomy planned for 11 May in southern and eastern Ukraine to be postponed “in order that conditions necessary for dialogue are created”. 

Karabakh Linked To Armenian Foreign Policy Change

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U.S. — Andranik Migranyan, head of the New York office of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a Russia-funded think-tank, Feb2009

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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.

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Commentary

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.

Want to Write for Hetq?

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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…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

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.