Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Monday, April 4, 2022.
This week’s major topics:
● Ukraine Crisis Update
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Dr. Pietro Shakarian, who is a Lecturer in History at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan. His research focuses on the history of Soviet Armenia and the Caucasus.
● What are the latest updates from the Ukrainian front? Where does the situation stand now?
● What are Russia’s objectives in Ukraine? What do denazification and demilitarization mean, again?
During the course
of this war, there have been several reports of human rights violations and war
crimes. Most recently, the Ukrainian
authorities have charged that Moscow deliberately killed civilians in the town
of Bucha, just north of Kiev. Zelensky and Foreign
Minister Kuleba even went so far as to accuse Moscow
of “genocide.” Moscow counters that there were no killings
by Russian troops and that this is a deliberate provocation by the Ukrainian
authorities. The Kremlin has also called for a meeting of the UN
over the allegations.
● What is going on with Bucha and similar war crimes accusations in Ukraine?
There was optimistic news earlier in the week after a day-long summit between Russia and Ukraine on March 29 in Istanbul. Ukrainian and Russian sides indicated that they have general agreement around the outlines of a potential cease-fire agreement.
What are the emerging outlines of the Russo-Ukrainian negotiations to end this war?
We talked about Turkey as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine and didn’t think Russia would be willing to allow Turkey this role, especially since Turkey is not really a neutral party, because of its military cooperation with Ukraine, including the sale of Bayraktar drones, and the plans to set up a drone manufacturing plant there.
● How was Turkey able to slip into the role of a mediator?
Another major news this week was that April 1 was the deadline for Russia’s demand for payment for gas in rubles or else Russia would shut it off. European countries argued that this would essentially result in busting of sanctions but given that Europe collectively relies on Russia for 40% of its gas, it is difficult to see what leverage they have.
We later learned that the actual devised scheme for paying for Russian gas in Rubles was complex, involving transfer of Euros to a Russian bank account, then converting it to Rubles in order to pay for gas.
Does this scheme achieve the same kind of effect as simply demanding payment directly in Rubles? What are the details that we should be aware of?
After Azerbaijan’s incursions in the western parts of the Askeran region, Artsakh president Arayik Harutyunyan said that now Armenians occupy the higher point of Karaglukh, but that important heights are still under Azerbaijani occupation. Military experts are saying that Artsakh’s situation will become even more dire if Azerbaijanis don’t withdraw.
On Thursday and Friday, within the span of 24 hours Putin and Pashinyan had two telephone conversations. Yet in his speeches Pashinyan continues to blame Russia, and says that Azerbaijan is making provocations in order to start a large-scale war and that there is a tendency to increase those provocations.
Erdogan backed up Azerbaijan by calling their actions defensive and called Artsakh’s Defense Army as “illegal armed Armenian elements”.
Different Armenian entities also seemed to increase criticism of Russia over the past weeks. For instance, Armenian Public TV seems to have invited speakers who would be naturally more critical of Russia, including Aram Zaveni Sargsyan.
● How did we get here?
● Who is working with whom and against who?
What’s going on with relations between Russia-Azerbaijan? Azerbaijan showed some teeth to Russia and at least publicly it appears that Baku is able to digest what was said and done. Let’s just recap what happened:
● Azerbaijan started an aggression
● Russia publicly pointed the finger at Baku. Declared that Azerbaijan had retreated.
● Baku provided a public dressing-down of Russia’s MOD, denying that they had withdrawn and providing lessons on how to pronounce and write city names in Azerbaijani, calling them liars. Essentially a slap in the face.
● Some Russian politicians and commentators called for Russia to take military action against Azerbaijan, for which Russian officials had to publicly apologize.
● There was even news that Azerbaijan will provide humanitarian / economic aid to Ukraine.
Some say that Russia never forgets such offenses, but the repercussions for Azerbaijan may not be visible publicly. What does Armenia have to show for its alliance with Russia?
Pashinyan is going to meet Aliyev in Brussels next week. This news was a surprise for analysts and happened before a much earlier announced trip that Pashinyan will take to Moscow in mid-April. Some media reported that in Moscow, Pashinyan will meet with Aliyev as well.
We saw this pattern back in December, when there was a previously announced meeting in Sochi that was suddenly preceded by a meeting in Brussels. Can this be seen as a last-minute intervention by the West in order to maintain some control or influence over the negotiations? And if so, what are the goals from the west?
The opposition will hold a protest on Tuesday, in a rare show of unity the protest will be jointly organized by Pativ Unem and Hayastan.
It seems like a protest before Pashinyan meets Aliyev is especially obligatory, given Pashinyan’s declared intention of signing a peace deal with Aliyev without any evidence of guarantees of a status for Artsakh outside of Azerbaijan. Opposition representatives have declared that this will not be an isolated protest, but we remember the fruitless protests following the events in Feb of last year.
Also, besides checking the minimal checkboxes and being able to say that they were protesting in the streets, can the opposition accomplish anything else either to affect Pashinyan’s policies or as they have promised to their voters, to remove Pashinyan from power?
That was our Week in Review show, and we hope it helped you catch up with some of the issues in and around Armenia from this past week. As always, we invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Like our pages and follow us on social media. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Pietro Shakarian, Ukraine, Artsakh, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Parukh, Askeran, Karaglukh, Bucha, Brussels, Russia, Moscow, Turkey, Genocide, Armenian Opposition, Opposition Protests, Mamikon Aslanyan, Arush Arushanyan, Chief of General Staff, Acting Mayor,