Armenian News Network / Groong


Groong: Week in Review



August 16, 2020

Table of Contents



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Your Hosts

Special Guest

Resident Panelists

Topics This Week

Interview with Hrant Mikaelian




Lightning Round

Nikol Pashinyan’s Interview on BBC HARDtalk

Belarus Presidential Elections

Amulsar Gold Mine

The Paul Goble Plan - Take 28

How the "Goble Plan" was born and how it remains a political factor

Headlines in the News







People in the News

Kerope Çilingir

Sergeant Vardan

Kegham Djeghalian






Hello, and welcome to Armenian News Network, Groong.


This Week in Review we talk with Hrant Mikaelian to discuss important issues and developments around Armenia, such as the Coronavirus Pandemic, and its economic effect; Armenia’s membership in EurAsian Economic Union and the economic effect of that organization on Armenia; and some of the trends affecting Russia and its economy.


Hrant will then join us in our weekly lightning round of questions from the past week’s headlines, to analyze Prime Minister Pashinyan’s interview with BBC’s HARDtalk; the presidential elections in Belarus; and the continuing standoff at Amulsar Gold Mine between Lydian and local residents and environmental activists.


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Your Hosts

          Hovik Manucharyan

          Asbed Bedrossian

Special Guest

          Hrant Mikaelian

Resident Panelists

          Asbed Kotchikian

          Artyom Tonoyan

          Alen Zamanyan


Topics This Week

Interview with Hrant Mikaelian




Hrant Mikaelian was born in Tbilisi and is a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. Hrant is also senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute. We’re going to be talking broadly about Armenia’s response to the pandemic, and the economic response both by Armenia and its neighbors. He produces a large number of articles very rich in analytical content.




Coronavirus statistics and trends in Armenia

What’s your outlook on the progression of coronavirus in Armenia, what are the current trends that you’re observing?

As of last week, according to Worldometers, for countries with greater than 1M population, Armenia is #10 in terms of cases per 1M people with roughly 14K cases per 1M. However, it is #50 in terms of testing having done roughly 60K tests per 1M.

      Are Armenia’s testing levels adequate and how do they compare with our neighbors?

      (IFF inadequate) What do you think are the reasons for this? Is there any health policy framework where not doing aggressive testing makes sense?


Prime Minister Pashinyan recently stated that Armenia’s government commitment of $300M has already been disbursed as part of 23 separate programs. The latest part came this week in support of the Agro and Tourism industries.

      How would you evaluate Armenia’s financial response so far? How targeted were these programs and is it possible to compare Armenia’s response with that of its neighboring countries?

What is your prediction for the Covid19 impact on Armenia's economy for this year? If there is deviation with official figures how do you explain it?


Economic outlook of the Eurasian Union

Moving on to northern neighbor Russia. In a recent interview on Lratvakan Radio, you predicted that Russia is heading towards economic collapse.

      Could you give us more details behind your bleak prediction?

You recently wrote about the vulnerabilities of the EurAsian Economic Union (EAEU) where you highlighted Russia’s dominant role in that organization.

      How will Russia’s potential economic troubles affect the EAEU? And what do you see as the future of the union?

      Given this information, how should Armenia craft its policy towards the EAEU.




           On the immigration to Armenia of Middle East residents and policy on Diaspora relations

           5 ամիս կորոնավիրուսի հետ. համավարակը՝ թվերով. «Վիճակախոսություն» (VIDEO)

           Would they notice the coronavirus epidemic in the Middle Ages or not?

           Assessment of excessive mortality from coronavirus. Example of Europe

           Ովքե՞ր են այսօր բնակվում Արևմտյան Հայաստանում. Թուրքիայի ժողովրդագրական պատկերը. «Վիճակախոսություն» (VIDEO)

           Ակնհայտ է՝ տարին փակելու ենք տնտեսական անկմամբ. ինչ է սպասվում 2021-ին (VIDEO)

           Հեռանկար/Herankar - Հրանտ Միքայելյան/Hrant Miqayelyan  (VIDEO)

           Vulnerability of the Eurasian Union in the post-pandemic world

           Ռուսաստանը հստակ քայլով գնում է դեպի տնտեսական կոլապս. «Վիճակախոսություն» (VIDEO)

           Armenia and Ukraine: no time to argue

           Events on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and their military-political and diplomatic backstory

           Demographics of the COVID-19 epidemic in Armenia - age structure and mortality


Lightning Round

Welcome back for our lightning round of headlines from the past week. I’m Asbed Bedrossian and I’m joined today by our panelists, Asbed Kotchikian, Artyom Tonoyan and Alen Zamanyan.


Asbed Kotchikian is a senior lecturer of political science and international relations at Bentley University in Massachusetts, where he teaches courses on the Middle East and former Soviet space, and with expertise in judicial reform, ways to combat radicalization and on ethnic and religious minorities.


Hrant Mikaelian is a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. Hrant is also senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.


Artyom Tonoyan is a research associate at the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, where his research is focused on the nexus of religion and violence. His specialties include religion and politics in the South Caucasus, and religion and nationalism in Russia.


Alen Zamanyan is a software engineer in Los Angeles, who follows and has analyzed Armenian affairs for over a decade.


Hello and welcome everyone!

Nikol Pashinyan’s Interview on BBC HARDtalk

Prime Minister Pashinyan’s interview with HARDtalk on the BBC left deep impressions on everyone. How did our panel feel about it?

Belarus Presidential Elections

In the presidential elections in Belarus on August 9 Alexander Lukashenko won reelection with 80% of the vote. Immediately afterwards protests and violence broke out in many cities around the country, and to date over 6000 have been arrested, over 700 detained, and the president of Lithuania has publicly declared Lukashenko no longer a legitimate leader. Meanwhile Prime Minister Pashinyan and president Sarkissian instantly congratulated Lukashenko, and Pashinyan has been getting slammed for his hasty recognition of the results of this unfair election, by opposition Bright Armenia and human rights activists in the country.

What’s going on in Belarus? And why are we seeing these dynamics in Armenia, in response to that?

Amulsar Gold Mine

This week the issue of the Amulsar Gold Mine heated up. As we know, Lydian Armenia filed for bankrupcy a year ago, now it’s come back as Restructured Lydian. Last weekend they brought in cranes and removed local and Environmental activist barracks and moved in their own barracks in order to restart the mining project. But activists and local residents hit back, and I understand they succeeded in blocking the company again.

Why is this issue soo hot? Follow the links on this topic in the Headlines below.

The Paul Goble Plan - Take 28

This week political analyst Suren Sargsyan interviewed Paul Goble on ArmNews. They talked about the Goble Plan that the US state department analyst proposed in 1992. Basically the plan proposed a territorial swap between Armenia and Azerbaijan because Goble didn’t see any other way toa solution to the Artsakh problem.

What is new with this plan, why doesn’t it go away and die?


      Georgia is a road, Armenia is a tool, while Azerbaijan is a gift

      How the "Goble Plan" was born and how it remains a political factor

      Suren Sargsyan’s interview of Paul Goble on ArmNews (in English)

      Armenia Needs to Pursue More Balanced Foreign Policy: Paul A.Goble


Headlines in the News


      Today August 10, 2020 is the 100th Anniversary of the Treaty of Sèvres. Everyone has chimed in on this: PM Pashinyan, Pres. Sarkissian, A joint statement from the ARF, Hunchak and Ramkavar parties, Hasmik Tolmajian - the Armenian Ambassador to France, Armenian National Academy of Sciences History Institute Director Ashot Melkonyan, and of course the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

      Belarus  president Alexander Lukashenka won reelection to the office in a vote still contested by his opposition.

      PM Pashinyan fired Deputy Chief of Police Tigran Yesayan.

      Armenian  K-12 schools are currently scheduled to reopen on September 15.

      High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Zareh Sinanyan, and the first plane load of emergency aid reached Beirut over the weekend. Sinanyan toured the community to see the damage by the explosion in the Beirut port on August 4. The delegation also met with many community representatives, as well as HH Catholicos Aram I.

      In a joint statement the Committee To Protect Freedom of Expression, the Yerevan Press Club, the Asparez journalists’ club and seven other organizations stressed that former Chief of Police Vladimir Gasparian be held accountable for his violent acts against Azatutyun journalists in his effort to obstruct their work in covering illegal constructions along the southern shores of Lake Sevan.

      Lebanon’s PM Hassan Diab and his entire cabinet stepped down after the catastrophic explosion in Beirut’s port.

      Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory and the National University of Architecture and Construction have jointly discovered 30 new stones at Carahunge (Zorats Karer)

      On August 9, in an interview to Azatutyun, Andranik Kocharyan (chairperson of the parliamentary fact-finding commission on the April War) claimed that during the 2016 April War Armenian forces ceded more than 20 positions to the Azerbaijanis.


      Clashes took place at Amulsar Gold Mine in Vayots Dzor region between environmental activists and Lydian Armenia corporate security guards. According to environmentalists, the mining operation will cause severe damage to Lake Sevan.

      Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev criticized oil and gas giant SOCAR and other state-owned companies as wasteful and called for a mass privatization drive. Aliyev has overseen SOCAR for 17 years and is furious at its inability to cover its expenses and for relying on the state budget for shortfalls.

      PM Pashinyan and Pres. Sarkissian congratulated Alexander Lukashenko on his reelection as president of Belarus. Some opposition and human rights advocates in Yerevan criticized Pashinyan for the hasty congratulations, given that the Belarus opposition has contested the results, and Belarus may be on the verge of violence. But Armenia is part of the CSTO, and that keeps it in a post-soviet space.

      Inspections have been carried out at the presently defunct Vanadzor Chemical Combine to reveal potential hazards regarding the storage of explosive and toxic materials at its warehouse.

      After the Beirut explosion, LHK leader Edmon Marukyan asked authorities to order an immediate inspection at Vanadzor chemical plant, citing an article that claimed there were around 90 tonnes of liquid ammonium and other dangerous substances, abandoned since the plant’s bankruptcy 4 years ago. But inspectors only found 9 tonnes, and says the volumes kept at the facility pose no risk to the nearby population.

      Aurora Humanitarian Initiative pledges $200,000 for Beirut Disaster Relief

      The High Commissioner for Diaspora affairs got further acquainted with the needs of the Lebanese Armenian community in Beirut, and some of the relief work in rebuilding.

      Russian president Putin announced that Russia has registered the world's first vaccine against the coronavirus. Putin’s daughter has already taken the vaccine.

      The third plane carrying humanitarian aid to Lebanon will take off on Tuesday from Armenia.

      Kerope Çilingir, the son and the only heir of Turkish-Armenian “brothel queen” Matild Manukyan, has died at 80. The fortune is estimated at over $4 billion, and presumptive heirs are in for a court.

      An MOU was signed between Armenian “China-Eurasia” Council for Political and Strategic research and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Chinese Committee on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation. The MOU guides the parties to cooperate with each other, to contribute to the development of Sino-Armenian relations, to promote dialogue between two ancient civilizations, and to promote cooperation in academic, technological, informational, educational, cultural and other fields.

      Armenia and Turkey continued to trade high-level barbs regarding the Treaty of Sèvres.

      Edgar Vardanyan, Armenia’s midfielder for the Latvia national football team, announced his decision to retire at 27, citing health reasons.

      Istanbul’s Bilgi University will provide special tuition discounts to applicants who have graduated from the city’s Armenian schools.

      World Vision Armenia released a rapid impact assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak on the wellbeing of children and families in Armenia.

      Edmen Shahbazyan was penalized $5,000 by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for displaying an “illegal regime” flag before his main event fight at UFC Vegas 5 on August 1.

      Democratic nominee Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his VP and running mate, and it raised a huge ruckus on Groong.

      John Bolton interview on ArmNews: Erdogan didn't like that I compared him to Mussolini.


      Turkish drone strikes have killed scores of civilians in northern Iraq, and infuriated Iraq.

      President of Artsakh Arayik Harutyunyan is considering moving the residence of the President from Stepanakert to Shushi.

      AGBU has raised over $2 million for Lebanese-Armenians.

      PM Pashinyan announced that around 100 of our citizens are returning to Armenia on board the planes that delivered aid to Lebanon.

      PM Pashinyan appointed Michael Hambardzumyan and Armen Abazyan to serve as deputy directors of NSS.

      The Armenian government extended the coronavirus-related state of emergency for another month and also revised mandatory face covering rules. Meanwhile, the Opposition LHK party introduced a motion seeking to end the state of emergency.

      The EBRD has pulled its $400 million investment in the Amulsar Gold Mine project with Lydian International. Lydian’s lawyer downplayed the pullout saying that the EBRD and many smaller investors have been pulling out due to a lack of progress in the past two years.

      Ruling party MP Rustam Bakoyan created obstacles for Syrian-Armenian businessman in Armenia. No action from Armenian government.

      About a hundred Azerbaijani Jews Demonstrated outside the Armenian center in Tel-Aviv.

      PM Pashinyan’s assistant Nairi Sargsyan met with angry protesters in front of the government building demanding that they be allowed to return to Russia. The ban of entry of foreigners to Russia  is at issue.

      Turkey is on the brink of a recession as its economy collapses.

      Greece and Turkey are on a collision course in the Mediterranean.


      Ambassador to the UN Mher Margaryan sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General, condemning the instigation of inter-ethnic clashes and violence against the Armenian communities in various parts of the world.

           Protests continued in Belarus following disputed presidential elections on August 9, the result of which was the reelection of Lukashenko with 80% of the vote. There are over 6000 arrests. Meanwhile the president of Lithuania said Lukashenko is no longer the legitimate leader and time is running out for him to agree to dialogue with his opponents.

           Artsakh Ambassador-at-Large Rudik Hyusnunts announced that Artsakh had launched a fundraiser for Lebanon in addition to the provision of food supplies.

           Deputy PM Tigran Avinyan has predicted less than 100 cases of Coronavirus in Armenia by the first half of September, given the present course of the virus.

           10 Armenian political parties issue statement over Sevres Treaty centennial.

      Montebello City Councilmember Jack Hadjinian resigned from the Board of Directors of LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s “Sheriff's Youth Foundation” over his decision to host a forum to “discuss concerns within the Azerbaijani-American community.” That forum was cancelled, and Hadjinian has withdrawn his support of Villanueva.

      Minister of Environment Romanos Petrosyan has ordered a clean-up operation at Lake Sevan’s beaches to dismantle illegal structures.

      The Armenian government approved a 23rd relief program to eliminate the economic consequences of the pandemic, this one in support of the tourism and agriculture industries. So far a total of AMD 144.5 billion have been injected in the Armenian economy.

      Aliyev aired serious grievances in a call to Putin over arms shipments to Armenia right on the heels of the July border skirmishes. A number of issues were discussed. Russian support for Armenia has been passive, while Turkish support for Azerbaijan has been very vocal and aggressive.

      U.S. government personnel in Armenia were directed to not use Armenian air carriers for official travel, including but not limited to:  Aircompany Armenia, Armenia Airways, Armenian Helicopters, Atlantis Armenian Airlines, Atlantis European Airways, Mars Avia, and Skyball.

           A Rudaw report about Ergen church in the province of Dersim (Tunceli) which was built 1,300 years ago, but now stands looted and in ruins without its original custodians.

      The cemetery belonging to the Armenan Holy Savior and Surp Karasun Manuk churches has been destroyed, reports.

      The Wolf & Galentz Gallery in Berlin, Germany, hosted an exhibition of photos dedicated to Armenia and Artsakh and paintings by Armenian artists.


           Paul Goble interview on ArmNews: No government can cede territory and remain in power

           Opposition LHK party’s Mane Tandilyan resigned from parliament and her party’s governing board, citing health reasons. She will be replaced by Stepan Stepanyan, a member of Bright Armenia’s Yerevan Regional Council.

      An interesting discussion of Armenia’s demographics under a misleading title.

      Today is Arthur Meschian’s last day as Chief Architect of Yerevan.

      PM Pashinyan’s interview on BBC’s HARDtalk.

      Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Serbia Eldar Hasanov was arrested in Baku, accused of embezzlement of state funds allocated for foreign policy activities and allegedly having been involved and profited from Serbian arms sales to Armenia.

      My Step MP and former Minister of DIaspora Mkhitar Hayrapetyan spoke in parliament about Armenia’s stance towards Armenian communities in the Middle East, and the desire to become a second and final home to those who wish to repatriate. Meanwhile the government is developing a package of regulations that will enable receiving repatriates from Lebanon, said High Commissioner Zareh Sinanyan.

      PM Pashinyan has directed the building of a foreign economic activity service center in Gyumri by 2022.

      The Vbet Armenian Premier League kicked off its season this week in Nairi Stadium.

      Self-determination of peoples is a fundamental value for Italy’s Five Star Movement party, said Italian MP Alberto Airola.

      The European Parliament’s second-largest political group ''European Friends of Armenia'' called for Azerbaijan and Belarus to be “immediately expelled” from the Eastern Partnership , as dictatorship incompatible with democratic values.

      Non-citizens may now enter Armenia as tourists, but will need to undergo a Coronavirus check-up.

      Events on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and their military-political and diplomatic backstory - Hrant Mikaelian’s excellent review of the July war, in Read the article, and also the reader comments below. Two additional analyses of the July war:

      Azerbaijani analysis: “Several reasons why Baku was not (was) interested in provocation along the border with Armenia” -

      Armenian analysys: "The recent escalation along the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border - the main reasons and possible scenarios in the logic of Yerevan" - Beniamin Poghosyan in


           A recap of the Amulsar Gold Mine project.

      Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Sahak Mashalyan will preside over a Divine Liturgy in Turkey’s only Armenian village of Vakifli on Sunday, August 16.

      A new peacekeeping brigade of the Armenian Armed Forces left for Afghanistan today according to the Ministry of Defense.


People in the News


Kerope Çilingir


Kerope Çilingir, the son and the only heir of Turkish-Armenian “brothel queen” Matild Manukyan, has died at 80. The fortune is estimated at over $4 billion, and a court battle is anticipated for control of the inheritance.

Sergeant Vardan


Sergeant Vardan, 23, is one of the soldiers who downed Azerbaijan’s ORBITER-3 intelligence UAV in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) during the tense situation in Tavush Province of Armenia in July. He has finished his tour of duty!


Kegham Djeghalian


A new Deutsche Welle documentary retraces the work of Armenian photographer Kegham Djeghalian, who captured life in Gaza, between Israel and Egypt, from the 1940s to the 1970s.





That concludes our program for This week’s Groong Week in Review. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the issues from the previous week. We look forward to your feedback, and even your suggestions for issues to cover in greater depth. Contact us on our website, at, or on our Facebook PageANN - 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.