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Ukraine crisis: Crimea eyes alliance with Russia

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Speculation is rife that Crimea – with its large ethnic Russian population and fervent pro-Moscow mood – could become the target of Kremlin ambitions, and a possible secessionist plot that would rip Ukraine apart, The Guardian reported.
All eyes are on Sevastopol, the historic home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Russian media said Victor Yanukovych – last spotted in the resort of Balaclava – may have taken refuge on a Russian military boat in the port.
Angry crowds, meanwhile, gathered in Sevastopol. They reject the authority of Kyiv’s new opposition-led government and want to install as mayor Alexei Chalov, a businessman and Russian citizen who favours union with Moscow. On Monday a Russian flag was even hoisted above Sevastopol’s city hall.
These febrile scenes raise the spectre that Crimea might declare autonomy from Kyiv and seek to join the Russian Federation, possibly after a Kremlin-encouraged referendum. This scenario is, as yet, unlikely. But with Moscow’s intentions unclear and a power vacuum in Kyiv, Sevastopol is key to Ukraine’s future as a unitary sovereign state.
More than half of Crimea’s 2 million inhabitants are ethnically Russian. The Russian fleet in Sevastopol employs more than 25,000 and enjoys overwhelming local support. Unlike in much of the rest of Ukraine, where statues of Lenin have been felled in a revolutionary frenzy, Sevastopol’s giant Lenin still gazes serenely over the Black Sea, next to white-painted Russian classical naval buildings. The town’s hilly streets are adorned with Soviet memorials.
The last time Sevastopol experienced insurrectionary sentiment was in 2008 when Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s then pro-western president, announced plans to evict the Russian fleet. Excitable pro-Russian Crimean politicians said any move to oust the fleet would result in conflict. After Yushchenko lost power, his successor, Yanukovych, extended the fleet’s lease for 25 years. In return the Kremlin gave Ukraine a discounted gas bill.
Far-right Ukrainian nationalists, meanwhile, accuse Moscow of planning to prise Crimea away. They suggest the Kremlin might use the same tactics it deployed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the breakaway republics of Georgia. In the runup to the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, Moscow distributed Russian passports to residents living in the two secessionist enclaves. That August the pro-western Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili made an ill-advised attempt to retake South Ossetia by force. Russia responded with a full-scale invasion – saying it had to defend its new citizens from attack.
Yushchenko’s officials frequently accused Russia of trying to “passportise” Crimea in the same way. In reality, there was not much evidence of this, though the Kremlin has actively sponsored pro-Russian organisations on the peninsula.In Moscow on Monday, the Duma discussed new legislation which would make it easier for ethnic Russians and their family members living in Ukraine to get Russian passports. Ominously, Russia’s foreign ministry said the human rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine were being “infringed”.
Vladimir Putin’s intentions towards Ukraine remain unclear. Russia has reaffirmed Ukraine’s modern borders several times. But Putin is known to be contemptuous of the notion of Ukrainian statehood; according to a leaked US diplomatic cable citing Poland’s foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, he regards it as a “cobbled together country” with six million Russians in it.
Ukraine is central to Putin’s belief that Russia has “privileged interests” in the former Soviet republics. It is a fair bet that he would seek to undermine or sabotage any new Ukrainian government that moved further away from Russia’s orbit.
More than any other territory outside Russia’s borders, Crimea occupies a romantic place in the Russian imagination. It is synonymous with military glory – imperial and Soviet. Catherine the Great built a naval citadel there after defeating the Turks in 1783. A Russian fleet has been there ever since.
History also explains Crimea’s modern ethnic divisions. In 1944 Stalin deported Crimea’s Tartars – the peninsula’s original Turkic-speaking Muslim inhabitants – to central Asia. He replaced them with Slavs from Russia or Russian-influenced parts of eastern Ukraine.
Most of the newcomers were from poor urban backgrounds; they moved into homes vacated by deportees. They had weak ties with Ukraine.
After the Soviet collapse, and even before, Crimean Tartars returned home. Well-educated and politically organised, they now number 300,000 – 15% of Crimea’s population. They reject the notion of union with Russia and are loyal to Kyiv – another volatile element in an already combustible ethnic mix. Pro-Kremlin politicians argue that Crimea only ended up in an independent Ukraine by historical accident, when Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954.
They freely admit they would like Crimea to join the Russian Federation. “It’s a myth that Ukraine is not part of Russia. We don’t believe it,” Oleg Rodilov, a pro-Russian MP in Crimea’s autonomous parliament said in 2008. It would be wrong to accuse him of “separatism”, he added. “For you, Ukraine and Russia are a priori different states. For us they area priori the same,” he said.
The links of culture, language and Orthodox religion made Ukraine and Russia an indivisible entity, he said. Also, both countries were Slavic, he said. “We don’t believe there is any difference. We have been together for 350 years.”

Pan-Armenian Games: No visa duty for participating athletes

February 22, 2014 Armenia, Sports No Comments

The Armenian government on Thursday decided to exempt the participants of upcoming Winter Pan-Armenian Games from duties to be paid for entry visas.

The first-ever Pan-Armenian Games in winter sports will be held in the resort town of Tsaghkadzor, Armenia, on February 24-March 2.

Some 400 ethnic Armenian athletes from 13 countries, including France, Argentina, Russia, the USA, Cyprus, Austria and others, will compete in skiing, Alpine skiing, snowboard and ice-hockey (to be held in Yerevan) during the Games.

Source: Armenia NowOriginial Article

Puma seeks to produce goods closer to Western consumers

February 21, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Sports, Turkey No Comments
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German sportswear firm Puma SE (PUMG.DE) is looking to produce more goods closer to customers in Europe and the Americas, but will not abandon Asia in the next few years despite rising labor costs and political unrest, its chief executive said.
Puma, which has 178 suppliers in 32 countries, sources 79 percent of its goods from Asia, mostly from China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia – the latter where a violent crackdown on garment workers striking over pay has disrupted production at its suppliers.
CEO Bjoern Gulden expressed frustration that industry lead times are so long, with ranges being designed now only going on sale in autumn 2015.
Puma is looking into producing more goods closer to consumers to be more responsive to demand, including in Turkey and eastern Europe, and in Mexico to serve the Americas, he said, without giving further details. Over 70 percent of the firm’s sales were in Europe and the Americas last year.
But the chief executive said his first priority was to revamp Puma’s products before overhauling its supply chain.
“Everybody is looking at how to improve the speed and flexibility of sourcing but for the next three to four years the majority will come out of Asia because of the infrastructure,” Gulden told Reuters on Thursday after Puma’s annual news conference.
“Yes, there are issues in Cambodia and Bangladesh but to run away from it and pull out of the country cannot be the answer,” he said. “You can’t say this is a very poor country and so we shouldn’t go there. It’s the opposite.”
Rising labor costs in China in recent years have prompted brand to seeks lower-cost markets in Asia such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cambodia, countries where demands are now mounting for better pay.
A factory collapse in Bangladesh last year that killed more than 1,100 people has put pressure on big brands to improve working conditions for those making products for the West.
Election-related violence there earlier this year also disrupted the garment sector. 

Sport: Armenia gears up for first Pan-Armenian Winter Games

February 20, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Sports No Comments
Armenian News

Although Armenia has never stood out for winter sports, one of its winter resorts Tsakhkadzor will soon host the first pan-Armenian winter games.

Inspired by the success of Pan-Armenian Summer Games held once every few years by the World Committee on Pan-Armenian Games since 1999, this year winter games will be held from February 24 to March 2. Athletes will compete in skiing, Alpine skiing and snowboard in Tsakhkadzor and ice-hockey in Yerevan.

The Committee’s press secretary Anna Vardanyan told ArmeniaNow that some 400 athletes will take part from 13 countries, among them France, Argentina, Russia, the USA, Cyprus, Austria and others.

Goris Sports Schools: Inadequate Facilities and Lack of Resources Lead to Dropping Enrollment

February 19, 2014 Armenia, Sports No Comments
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12:55, February 19, 2014

Mariam Matevosyan

The last serious sports victory achieved by Goris residents was in 1993 when the local Zangezour football team won the Armenian championship.

Vrezh Davtyan, a member of the former Zangezour squad, says that an interest in sports begins in school when youngsters take gym classes.

Today, Goris school students take gym 2-3 times a week. Even though the schools have gymnasiums, due to a lack of proper financing, the sports equipment is either lacking or on the verge of disrepair.

Ararat Stepanyan, who teaches gym at the Aksel Bakounts Senior School No. 1, complains that the volleyball and basketball nets need replacing, they need new balls, and that they don’t have exercise mats.

Armenia’s government allocates funds for passports for Syrian Armenians

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Jaguar Land Rover quarterly profits double to £842m

February 11, 2014 Armenia, Sports No Comments
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Profits at luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) more than doubled in the last three months of 2013, the BBC reports.The UK company made profits of £842m, up from £404m for the same quarter in 2012, on revenues of £5.3bn.Sales during the third quarter rose 27% year-on-year to 112,172 vehicles, driven by the popularity of the Jaguar XJ and XF, and the Range Rover Sport.JLR’s results underpinned profits at its parent, India’s Tata Motors, which jumped to 48bn rupees (£470m).JLR chief executive Ralf Speth said the company’s results were “a testament to the quality” of its cars.Tata Motors bought JLR in 2008 from Ford $2.3bn (£1.15bn), and has invested heavily in new models and research.During 2013 as a whole, JLR sold a record 425,006 saloons and sports utility vehicles, with sales particularly strong in Brazil, China, India and the US.Profits at Tata Motors’ Indian operations were boosted by a one-time 19.5bn rupee accounting gain, as a result of Tata selling its stake in its South Korean subsidiary to its Singapore subsidiary.Tata’s own quarterly profits – which were up 195% – beat analysts’ forecasts. However, this rise masks a continuing struggle in its home market. 

Alpine skiing-Flier Mayer wins downhill gold

February 9, 2014 Armenia, Sports No Comments
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Matthias Mayer won Olympic downhill gold on Sunday to give the Austrian men’s team the perfect start to the Alpine skiing competition with the first major success of his fledgling career, Reuters reports.
On an overcast day in Sochi when big favorites Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal failed to shine, Italy’s Christof Innerhofer – so nearly living up to his ‘Winnerhofer’ tag – took the silver and Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud snapped up the bronze.
The 23-year-old Mayer, who started 11th, is the son of 1988 super-G silver medallist Helmut. His winning time of two minutes, 06.23 seconds was 0.06 faster than Innerhofer’s.
His gold medal continued an Austrian tradition of first time winners on the biggest stage of all and provided an immediate boost for a men’s team who failed to win a single medal in Vancouver four years ago.
“It’s crazy. It’s the greatest thing you can achieve as a sportsman – unbelievable,” said Mayer, who had set the quickest time in Friday training.
The last Austrian to win the downhill gold was Fritz Strobl in 2002. Compatriots Patrick Ortlieb (1992) and Leonhard Stock (1980) also took their first big career wins in the Olympic downhill.
American Miller, 36, was bidding to become the oldest man to win an Alpine gold at a Games but was left hanging his head after finishing eighth.
“It’s tough, obviously. I was looking to win,” he told reporters after a lingering kiss from his wife. “I obviously thought I had a chance in it. But it’s tough when things don’t go your way.”
The American showman had been 0.31 of a second quicker than Mayer at the second time check but then lost a heap of time in the bottom part of the course to finish in 2:06.75.
Svindal, the downhill world champion and 2010 silver medallist, was pipped to a medal by bearded compatriot Jansrud.
“I didn’t go fast enough, it was difficult at the top and I made lots of mistakes, I lost too much time and the others were too fast,” he said.
“I knew it wasn’t just between me and Bode. Matthias was the fastest and he deserved to win.”

Why Doesn’t Armenia Have Figure Skaters in the Sochi Winter Olympics?

February 8, 2014 Armenia, Arts, Asia, Europe, Sports No Comments
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12:39, February 7, 2014

Anna Babajanyan

Due to a lack of facilities and funding, professional Armenian figures are forced to train abroad and in conditions that are unequal to their counterparts in other countries — which might be part of the reason for their poor track record last month.

When Armenia’s representative finished last at the 2014 European Figure Skating Championships in January in Budapest, some fans were forced to reevaluate the potential of Armenian figure skaters. When it became known that Armenia won’t have a representative in the figure skating competition of the Sochi Winter Olympics, which begins today, social networking sites were buzzing with questions such as “Don’t we have any good figure skaters?” and “Is figure skating as a sport neglected in Armenia?”

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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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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.

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.