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Romania: Prime Minister’s Brother-in-Law in EU Embezzlement Probe

February 17, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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22:39, February 17, 2015

A company owned by the sister and brother-in-law of the Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta was among 14 locationsraidedby anti-corruption officials Tuesday morning.

According toMediafax Newswire, prosecutors suspect that several companies includingSC Exfin Ltd, which is runby Ponta’s brother-in-law Iulian Hertanu and his wife Alexandra, were involved in embezzling an estimated US$ 2 million from a European Union-funded project.

The sum represents 54 percent of the overall budget of a program to improve sewer infrastructure in the mountain town of Azuga, Prahova.

Investigators searched the company headquarters and raided the Hertanu family home. The companies are also suspected of tax evasion to the tune of approximately US$640,000.

Karabakh Mediators On New Regional Tour


International mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continued their efforts to promote a peaceful solution to the protracted conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh as they paid fresh visits to Azerbaijan and Armenia this week.

On the second stop of their regional tour in Yerevan on Tuesday, the United States, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group met with the country’s leadership, including President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.

While the mediators appeared to have brought no new proposals with them to the region, Ambassador James Warlick, the American representative in the group, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) that their tour was “another opportunity to talk”.

Nuland In Azerbaijan At Start Of Caucasus Tour


The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland has arrived in Azerbaijan on the first leg of her South Caucasus tour.

Nuland told journalists in Baku on February 17 that her talks with President Ilham Aliyev focused on bilateral ties and the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nuland added that she would talk about the release of two Azerbaijanis held in Nagorno-Karabakh during her meetings with Armenian officials in Yerevan on February 18.

Amenian President Recalls Armenia-Turkey Protocols

February 16, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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17:24, February 16, 2015

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has today petitioned the Speaker of the National Assembly Galust Sahakyan, about his decision to recall the Armenian-Turkish Protocols from the National Assembly, this according to Public Radio Armenia. The letter reads, in part:

“Respected Mr. Sahakyan,

When launching the process of normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations without preconditions, we were fully aware of all possible scenarios of future development. We were ready for both comprehensive normalization of relations through ratification of the protocols and their failure. We had nothing to conceal, as it would become clear to the world which party was guilty of missing the chance to open the last closed border in Europe.

Azerbaijan: Journalist Faces New Charges

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21:25, February 13, 2015

Fresh charges have been filed against investigative reporter and OCCRP partner Khadija Ismayilova.

The charges, according to the journalist’s lawyer, Fariz Namazly, include running an illegal business, tax evasion, embezzlement, and abuse of power.

If convicted, she faces up to 12 years in prison. Ismayilova, who worked for Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, denies all charges.

Ismayilova has been held in pre-trial detention since Dec. 5, 2014 on charges of inciting a former colleague to commit suicide. She denies the accusations, which international human rights groups believe are politically motivated.

Kocharian’s Return To Yerevan ‘Unrelated To Political Tensions’

February 13, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Top News No Comments

Former President Robert Kocharian flew back to Armenia late on Thursday shortly after the upsurge in political tensions between the Armenian government and a key opposition force.

Kocharian’s spokesman, Victor Soghomonian, flatly denied on Friday any connection between his return and the announcement of a government offensive against Gagik Tsarukian, an opposition leader reputedly close to the ex-president.

Soghomonian told the Yerevan.Today.am website that Kocharian travelled to Europe and booked a return flight for February 12 two weeks ago. “Robert Kocharian’s return to Yerevan is in no way connected to yesterday’s political events,” he said.

Upping Stakes, Sarkisian Begins Crackdown On Tsarukian


In a dramatic riposte to mounting pressure from Gagik Tsarukian, President Serzh Sarkisian moved to kick the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader out of parliament, ordered tax audits of his businesses and warned of the possibility of his prosecution late on Thursday.

Sarkisian lashed out at his former coalition partner in a speech full of derogatory descriptions of Tsarukian, including his infamous “Dodi Gago” nickname, delivered before senior members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

The unusually harsh attack marked a further escalation of tensions between the Sarkisian administration and the BHK that began after a gathering of opposition forces organized by Tsarukian last week. The tycoon used the gathering to step up his criticism of the government’s track record and, more importantly, warn Sarkisian against amending the Armenian constitution.

Romania, Spain and the EU Bust Human Trafficking Ring

February 12, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
Armenian News

22:31, February 12, 2015

Romanian, Spanish and European Union (EU) authorities teamed up to bust a human trafficking ring in Pahova County in central Romania, officials said Tuesday.  

Romanian national police in the city of Ploiesti, working with Spanish police and EU crime authorities Eurojust and Europol, searched 17 houses, arrested five suspects, and rescued five victims of human trafficking on Monday. Authorities also seized phones, laptops, and a car.

This is the second bust for this organized crime group. On Jan. 23 and 24, agencies collaborated to arrest 10 suspects, search six houses and retrieve 14 victims in the Alicante region on the southeastern coast of Spain. Authorities froze bank accounts of the suspects arrested during this portion of the operation.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Suspected ISIS Recruiter’s Trial Starts

February 12, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
Armenian News

22:35, February 12, 2015

Husein “Bilal” Bosnic received “vast sums” of money from Arab countries to help fund Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), prosectors charged Wednesday at the opening of Bosnic’s trial for organizing a terrorist group, publicly inciting terrorist activities, and recruiting locals to join a terrorist group.

Nonsense, Bosnic’s defense lawyer countered: he was simply preaching Islamic teachings, and the trial is an unjustified attack on his religious freedom.

Bosnic was calmly sitting next to his lawyer throughout the hearing.

Prosecutor Dubravko Campara said statements Bosnic made at religious gatherings were also posted on Youtube during 2013 and 2014, and resulted in a number of local members of the Salafi movement leaving for Iraq and Syria to fight alongside ISIS.

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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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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.