Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on October 17, 2022.
Before we begin the show, we’d like to request that you SUBSCRIBE to our Youtube channel, FOLLOW us on Twitter, and SUBSCRIBE and rate our podcasts - which you can listen to wherever you get your podcasts.
All our Groong links on our LinkTree page, we’ll make sure you can find it on our profile pages, so you can click on it and find us everywhere on Social Media platforms.
So if you like our shows, please share with your friends, and follow us everywhere you are used to getting your Armenian news.
Thanks, and on with the show!
Here are the major topics we’ll touch on today with our main guest:
● Census in progress in Armenia
● Meetings in Astana
● Developments in Iran
Later on in the show, we will include conversations on the following topics:
● Armenian websites compromised
● Remembering the TsOR artillery unit
Our main guest today is:
Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.
The third decennial post-Soviet census is currently in progress in Armenia, and there’s been so little public advertising and information about it that almost nobody is thinking about it. Awareness and support of the census is, of course, a major factor in its success and the ultimate quality of its data.
The census is being actively conducted from October 13 to 23, and our guest is a close follower of it.
● Why do they pick October to conduct the census?
● Has Armenia consistently conducted the census since its independence?
○ How do we rate within post-Soviet states, in consistency and accuracy?
● The direct sampling rate is set to 25% this time around. Is this sufficient for an accurate count?
● Are minorities properly broken out in census data?
● Historically, what sort of policies have come about as a result of census data?
● What is to be expected of this census, and when? Are the resulting datasets available to the public in general?
Another summit of the heads of the CIS countries was held, this time in Astana, Kazakhstan. Turkish president Erdogan was also there and met with Russian president Putin.
Along the sidelines of this summit, Armenian, Russian and Azerbaijani FMs Ararat Mirzoyan, Sergei Lavrov and Jeyhun Bayramov, discussed ongoing efforts aimed at settling outstanding issues in negotiations.
During this meeting Mirzoyan emphasized to Lavrov the need to implement monitoring in order to control the violence on the Armenia-Azerbaijan borders, including the presence of CSTO troops. Putin however reminded that the current CSTO chair-country, Armenia, should convene a CSTO security council meeting and initiate that process. While Armenia continues to blame the CSTO for inaction, a security council meeting is still not scheduled (to our knowledge).
● Last week we talked with Benyamin Poghosyan, and in one of his scenarios he noted that Armenia needs to negotiate the presence of both the EU civilian monitors, as well as CSTO troops on its borders in order to ward off Azeri attacks and a possible invasion.
● Where is this headed? Is there a problem for Pashinyan in convening a CSTO council meeting and initiating this proposal?
● The exchange between Armenia and Russia, played out in the public, seems to be just an effort to put blame and to save face. Normally, such agreements are prepared ahead of time. What does this say about Armenian-Russian relations?
On October 12 Lavrov said that the CSTO is ready to send “observers” to the line of contact between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is likely a response to the fact that the EU agreed to send a 2-month civilian observer mission, during the meetings in Brussels two weeks ago.
● Is this a likely scenario, given Russia’s entanglement in the Ukraine imbroglio?
● Given the diplomatic offensive by the US and the EU in the south Caucasus, do you think Russia is feeling a pressure to act, and in some ways retake the initiative here?
For his part, Pashinyan delivered a speech at the summit. Here are the key notes from that: (Not necessary to read all of this)
● He said that in Prague, he and Aliyev had agreed to use fundamental CIS documents for the purpose of border delimitation. Essentially, the official Soviet state borders would become the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
● He asked the leaders to clarify if the CIS fundamentally accepts that the 1991 borders between them are accepted as international borders, and hinted that the CSTO could not accept the CIS as an observer without this clarification.
● Pashinyan clearly stated about the depth of the horrible Azerbaijani aggression on September 13 and 14, and noted that Azeri rhetoric clearly indicates that Azerbaijan intends to occupy more Armenian sovereign territory.
● He also clarified the nature of the discussions of the various trilateral statements which form the basis of the “peace negotiations” and rejected Aliyev’s propaganda offensive essentially as fake news.
● What can be expected outcomes from this summit? Can we be optimistic that anything new will evolve from here?
For more than a month now, Iran has been embroiled in unrest. It began with the death of a Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini who was arrested for not wearing a headscarf and died in police custody under suspicious circumstances. Since then, protests have been raging in different cities in Iran with different degrees violence. The death toll from the protests varies greatly depending on who is reporting but on Saturday alone, a prison holding many of the protesters went ablaze resulting in 8 deaths. The exact circumstances however, are still being clarified.
● What is the trajectory of these developments in Iran
● What is their significance to Armenia?
Before the CIS summit in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan also hosted a conference on Strengthening Cooperation and Trust in Asia. Iran’s president Raisi met with Aliyev at this conference after which Iran publicly reiterated that any changes in historical borders and regional geopolitics are unacceptable for Iran, and that Raisi had personally emphasized this with Aliyev. There was a flood of articles in Iranian press about this, which in itself emphasizes how strongly they mean this.
Soon thereafter, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard announced massive military exercises along the length of its northern borders along Armenia and Azerbaijan.
● How strongly does Iran stand by its red line? Will they go to war if they have to?
Iran has also announced investments into Armenian infrastructure and industry. For example, they will apparently open an auto manufacturing line in Armenia to export cars to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) countries. Plus, they’re opening a consulate in Kapan.
● What can we say about Iran’s activation of politics and diplomacy, is this to preserve its North-South corridor, from India to Europe, potential?
Segment with Artur Papyan, Cyberhub (Recorded: 10/16/2022)
This week, Armenian companies and websites were affected by two cyber-attacks, one against a shared hosting provider (web.am) and another one affecting Armenian NGO fip.am.
In the first case, the attackers defaced more than 200 websites including Artsakh Ministry of Finance, the Gyumri Municipality, and the South Caucasus Railway. The attackers chose to deface the websites, letting it be known that a group called “Az-Security team” was taking credit for the attack.
In the second case, web properties belonging to the Union of Informed Citizens, namely UIC.am, UMDIMEL.am, REFORMS.am were compromised and taken offline. In this case, credit was claimed by a hacker group called “Turkz org”.
We have a short chat with Arthur Papyan, a malware researcher, digital security consultant and co-founder of CyberHub. We talk about the details of these compromises as well as what website operators should take into account in order to improve the security and resiliency of their website.
Segment with Naira Melikyan and Yeghishe Zakunts (Recorded May 7, 2022)
This week, October 12, was the 2nd anniversary of the attack against the TsOR Artillery Unit whose members perished near Juvarlu in Hadrut during the 44-day war.
Parents and relatives of the fallen servicemen have initiated a criminal complaint against the then Commander of Artsakh Defense Forces Jalal Harutyunyan, Artillery Commander Gennady Baghdasaryan and Major Gevorg Gevorgyan for misdirecting the men, deploying them too close to the frontline and giving them incorrect information. The families and relatives of the fallen heroes suffered a harrowing ordeal for 13 months searching the sites of the fighting in freezing winter and hot summer weather until finally some relics were recovered and laid to rest.
October 12 is the day when the relatives remember their fallen soldiers, many of whom were posthumously awarded the Battle Cross medal for their heroism.
Here is a short excerpt from our archives of a discussion we had with two of the relatives, Naira Melikyan (mother of Hayk Melikyan) and Yeghishe Zakunts (relative of Ruben Poghosyan). This discussion was recorded on May 7, 2022, at the sidelines of the resistance movement protest so apologies in advance for the poor audio quality and background noise.
That was our Week in Review and we hope you found it helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Follow us on Twitter, and Like our Facebook page.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we thank you for listening. Stay well, we’ll be back next week.
Hrant Mikaelian, Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, Artsakh, Azerbaijan, Iran, Census, Armenian Census, Astana, Kazakhstan, Ilham Aliyev, Vladimir Putin, CIS, CIS Summit, Strengthening Cooperation and Trust in Asia, Ebrahim Raisi, Iran Military Exercises, 2022, Armen Grigorial, Alen Simonyan