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Hello, and welcome to Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review.
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In this episode, our resident panelists address a number of topics that have been popular in the headlines in the past week:
Welcome to our Week in Review everyone. We’re joined today by our resident panelists, Asbed Kotchikian, Emil Sanamyan and Alen Zamanyan.
Asbed Kotchikian is a senior lecturer of political science and international relations at Bentley University in Massachusetts.
Emil Sanamyan is a senior research fellow at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies specializing in politics in the Caucasus, with a special focus on Azerbaijan.
Alen Zamanyan is a software engineer in Los Angeles, who follows and has analyzed Armenian affairs for over a decade.
Hello and welcome everyone!
Last weekend Armenian army officer Gurgen Alaverdyan was captured near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Armenia claims that Alaverdyan got lost in very bad weather, while Azerbaijan claims that they thwarted a commando raid into their territory. It is notable that this incident happened during Russian DM Shoigu’s visit to Baku.
In recents weeks, Syria in general and Aleppo in specific witnessed a steep rise in Covid-19 cases while dealing with severe shortages of medical supplies. The Armenian community left in the city has also been hit by the pandemic. Armenia delivered 2 tons of medical supplies for Aleppo hospitals, after it provided 12 tons of medical and food supplies to the survivors of the Beirut explosion. How can we evaluate Armenia’s new humanitarian foreign policy?
Last week former president Serge Sargsyan finally gave his press conference where he discussed his thoughts about the April 2016 war. There has been a lot of vitriol in Armenian media about this topic and frankly it’s distressing to see so much partisanship injected in a matter of such high national security value.
So this week I noticed many articles about various awards being awarded to military officers, or citizens.
● April 2016 War hero Capt. Urfanyan will receive a posthumous Hero of Artsakh title;
● Arthur Mkrtchyan will receive a Hero of Artsakh award by the Pres. of Artsak;
● Captain Ruben Sanamyan will be awarded with the title of National Hero;
● Four more servicemen back in July, posthumously;
...and many more. What is the history and background for these awards? Why are they important? Why now?
On August 18, former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutyunyan was appointed by Prime Minister Pashinyan as his Chief Advisor. There wasn’t a lot of media coverage on this other than the news of the appointment itself. Who is Vagharshak Harutyunyan? What is the significance of his appointment?
● The gross salary fund of employed citizens in Armenia was AMD 127.4 billion in July 2020, up from 120.8 in June 2020, and from 117.6 in July 2019. This is the payroll base upon which income tax is calculated.
● The Armenian military launches planned command-staff exercises
● Iran’s has announced that its next presidential election will be held on June 18, 2021
● USAID has announced additional assistance to Armenia to respond to COVID-19 - $1.436 million.
● The Oldest Armenian Church in Bulgaria marks 400th anniversary
● Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) will modernize Armenia’s fleet of SU-25’s. In addition, Russian and Armenian DM’s are discussing an additional batch of Su-30SM generation 4+ fighters for the Armenian Defense forces.
● The annual Mass at the Holy Cross Armenian Church on Akhtamar Island will be held behind closed doors this year due to safety concerns.
● 12 teams have qualified for the next stage of the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad Top Division: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and USA. Play-off starts on Aug 27.
● Armenians and Azerbaijanis clash in Javakhk due to grazing rights of sheep
● Australian MP Trent Zimmerman has condemned Azerbaijani aggression and nuclear threat against Armenia
● Lydian Armenia files lawsuit against MP Arman Babajanyan for slander. Meanwhile, a Lydian Armenia security subcontractor may lose its license due to illegal possession of firearms.
● A June poll conducted by the World Bank shows that 54% of Armenians say that they're financially worse off since the pandemic started; 51% of parents also report that they would send their children to school amidst the pandemic; and 66% of respondents consider that economic considerations should prevail over health ones.
● Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense has claimed to have captured an Armenian soldier who crossed from Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan’s Goranboy District. Armenia’s Defense Ministry said the junior officer, Gurgen Alaverdian, lost his way due to “extremely unfavorable weather conditions” as he was about to inspect an Armenian frontline position.
● Berlin will become the second European capital after Paris to host a TUMO center, a free innovative digital school for young people.
● A protest rally in front of Ministry of Education demanded Minister Arayik Harutyunyan`s resignation
● The official Facebook page of the RA Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan is no longer available, earlier the Minister also closed his personal Facebook page.
● Due to popular demand, the Dali & Picasso exhibit at the National Gallery has been extended until August 30.
● Caucasus Wildlife Fund transfers about 87 thousand euros to Khosrov Forest Reserve, for a total of 180 so far in 2020.
● Robert Kocharyan has sued the Armenian government for breach of privacy: AMD 2 Mil.
● Valer Karbalevich gives an analytical update of the ongoing protests in Belarus.
● Turkey has successfully tested a heavy-duty reconnaissance drone and is ready to produce and export them to Azerbaijan.
● Healthcare Minister Arsen Torosyan will take a vacation from Aug.31 to Sep. 18. His deputy Anahit Avanesyan will replace him during the vacation. There are reports of a heated argument between Torosyan and Pachinyan.
● The planned preventive maintenance (PPM) of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant 3rd Power Unit’s 3rd and 4th turbo generators has been completed and the facility was re-connected to the country’s unified energy system.
● China is using Azerbaijan to open up access for belt and road projects. The main project involving Azerbaijan is the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, a land transport network stretching from China and Southeast Asia to Europe.
● Belarusian agricultural machinery manufacturer Gomselmash has made the first supplies of grain harvesters GS12A1 to Armenia.
● Israeli Historian Stefan Ihrig to speak on “the Armenian Genocide and the 20th Century” at 5pm EDT on August 30.
● President of Artsakh Republic Arayik Harutyunyan will award Arthur Mkrtchyan the title of Hero of Artsakh posthumously.
● Aeroflot will start operating 2 flights a week from Yerevan
● A gas explosion in an apartment building in Yerevan has caused the building to partially collapse.
● Vahe Jilavyan has been appointed acting deputy minister of environment.
● Armenia has made progress in list of highly digitized government countries
● Armenia’s national postal operator Haypost is launching subsidiaries in China, US and Russia.
● Environment Minister orders immediate investigations over killing of endangered brown bear cub.
● Armenia school children will remain in classrooms during recess as precaution against COVID-19.
● In Chess, Carlsen, Kasparov Will Clash For The 1st Time In 16 Years, during September.
● Georgia and NATO countries will launch multinational military exercise in September.
● With a market value of €20m, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is ranked number 1 among all players from Armenia and 372nd worldwide. He is ranked 30th among attacking midfielders.
● As part of Army-2020, An air show and a ground display of aviation equipment will take place at Erebuni Airport in Yerevan on August 28..
● The MoD has called for the creation of a nationwide militia that would reinforce Armenia’s armed forces in times of war.
● Former finance minister Gagik Khachatrian and his nephew went on trial on August 26, one year after being arrested on corruption charges.
● Economic activity index increased by 9.7% in July compared with June. But the January-July economic activity index declined 5.7% YoY 2019.
● DM Tonoyan condemned footage released by Azerbaijan about officer Gurgen Alaverdyan, in a conversation with Kasprzyk.
● TUMO center opened in the Russian capital, Moscow on August 26.
● Horasis China Meeting 2020 in Armenia delayed due to COVID-19, will take place in 2021.
● 2016 April War hero Capt. Urfanyan will receive posthumous Hero of Artsakh title.
● Heart Surgeon Hrayr Hovagimian Awarded Title of Armenia’s "National Hero".
● Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not join the national team for the upcoming UEFA Nations League matches. He has not played since early August and is not in top shape for the first round.
● Nine more Lebanese Armenian families will settle in Artsakh, Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan informs.
● The government will Relocate the Armenian Village of Jradzor to accommodate an Irrigation Dam.
● Acting deputy minister of environment Vardan Melikyan has been relieved from the position.
● On the occasion of the Emirati Women’s Day, an online discussion titled Women’s Empowerment in the UAE was held with the participation of Emirati and Armenian women diplomats and politicians.
● DM Tonoyan awarded Russian servicemen for major work aimed at preventing COVID-19.
● The NSS said “thief-in-law” crime boss Gevorg “Oshakantsi Gevorik” Melikyan has been jailed amid an ongoing criminal investigation.
● Armenia withdrew from the FIDE online Chess Olympiad semis, after its appeal over one of its players losing their game due to a bad Internet connection was rejected. India will enter the playoffs in place of Armenia.
The Greece vs. Turkey animosity has been escalating in the past weeks. We will dedicate a section here to the headlines we’ve seen building:
● The Drilling Wars of the Mediterranean, Explained
● Turkey continues violating Greek airspace despite the lira tumbling
● While Turkey Provokes Greece, NATO, EU Look The Other Way
● Greece-Egypt EEZ deal doesn’t sit easy with Turkey
● Greece & Cyprus call for EU help over Mediterranean resource row with Turkey, but Brussels shows a lack of spine – as always
● Greece is once again on high alert after Turkey sent ships to conduct energy research and exploration in an area within Greece's continental shelf
● Turkey marks 100 years since Treaty of Sèvres with renewed hostilities against Greece
● Mediterranean WAR: Greece and Turkey on collision course as furious Athens attacks Erdogan
● Israel stands behind Greece in escalating energy dispute with Turkey.
● Erdoğan is both a bully and a menace. Europe ignores him at its peril
● ‘This isn’t Lake Sevan’ – Turkish FM reacts harshly to Armenia's statement on former’s exploration in Mediterranean
● Cyberwar resumes as Anonymous Greece brings down several Turkish websites
● Kurdish rebel leader: Erdoğan created a crisis with Greece because he could not defeat us
● Armenia, Turkey Exchange More Diplomatic Salvos Over Regional Affairs
● Turkey-Greece conflict in eastern Mediterranean is less about gas than vacuum left by Trump
● If Trump says Erdoğan listens to him, why hasn’t he demanded Turkey end hostilities with Greece?
● Greece-US Relations? No Conflict Here, Trump is Erdogan's Guy
● US Warship Arrives in Crete as Greece-Turkey Standoff Escalates
● Retired Turkish General: Do not underestimate the Greeks, they can attack Ankara (VIDEO)
● Nordic Monitor: Turkish intelligence recruit assets from Greece’s Muslim Minority to spy
● Turkey extends seismic survey in Eastern Mediterranean as tension with Greece escalates
● Greece to conduct military exercises in east Med amid tension with Turkey
● Greece may talk to Turkey, but not under 'military pressure', Athens says as rival drills begin in Eastern Mediterranean
● Germany urges Greece-Turkey talks to avoid 'catastrophe' in East Med
● Greece plans to extend fence along Turkish border
● Erdogan warns Greece that Turkey will ‘never compromise’ on Mediterranean energy reserves
● EU weighs options to pull Greece and Turkey back from brink
● The Eastern Mediterranean tinderbox: Why Greek-Turkish rivalries have expanded
● The Brief – The EU faces ‘brain death’ over Turkey.
● East Med naval manoeuvres widen to Cyprus as U.S., Germany warn Turkey
● Turkey will keep searching for oil & gas in Mediterranean, attempts to turn it away are ‘pipe dreams’ – defense chief.
● Greece v Turkey latest: Ankara issues war warning over Athens’ plot to extend waters.
● Turkey Seeks to Sideline EU in Maritime Disputes With Greece.
Vartan Kupelian, a long-time Detroit News reporter who spent decades as one of the most respected golf writers in the country and who figured he had covered 168 major championships spanning all the tours throughout his career, died on August 20. He was 73.
Pianist Eva Gevorgyan won 1st Grand Prize at Chicago International Music Competition which was held July 25 - August 25, 2020 online.
That concludes our program for this week’s Groong Week in Review. We look forward to your feedback and suggestions for issues you’d like to hear us cover. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. I’m Hovik Manucharyan, and on behalf of everyone in this episode, I wish you a good week. Thank you for listening, and talk to you next week.