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Posts tagged ‘Ancient Land of Armenia’

President’s party seen winning Armenian parliamentary vote

April 03, 2017

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Early results in the Armenian parliamentary election shows the country’s ruling party has won just under half of the vote. Sunday’s election was the first since the ex-Soviet nation modified its constitution to expand the powers of parliament and the prime minister.

The Central Election Commission said on Monday that 94 percent of the ballots counted show the Republican Party of Armenia’s president, Serzh Sargsyan, winning 49 percent of the vote. The bloc led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian trails with 28 percent. Two more parties also look set to clear the 5-percent barrier necessary to get seats in parliament.

Critics see the constitutional amendments as part of Sargsyan’s efforts to retain control of the country after he steps down in 2018 due to term limits.

Armenia holds a parliamentary election, ruling party favored

April 02, 2017

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenians voted Sunday in the country’s first parliamentary election since the ex-Soviet nation modified its constitution to expand the powers of parliament and the prime minister.

Polls prior to the vote showed the Republican Party of Armenia’s president, Serzh Sargsyan, in the lead, closely followed by a bloc led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian, one of Armenia’s richest men. Critics see the amendments as part of Sargsyan’s efforts to retain control of the country after he steps down in 2018 due to term limits. If his party controls parliament, he could be appointed prime minister after leaving the presidency.

But the 62-year-old Sargsyan, who has led Armenia since 2008, has rejected the allegations, describing the constitutional changes approved in a 2015 referendum as steps toward strengthening democracy.

“We have set a task to make resolute step toward developing a European-style democracy and strengthening democratic institutions,” Sargsyan said. The constitutional changes, set to take force after Sargsyan’s term ends, envisage largely symbolic powers for the nation’s president, who will now be elected by parliament instead of by popular vote.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian has spearheaded the Republican Party’s campaign, promising to encourage foreign investment in the economically struggling nation. Tsarukian also has pledged to attract up to $15 billion in foreign investment from Persian Gulf countries and elsewhere.

The nationalist Dashanktsutyun party and two other parties also are expected to make it into the parliament. Sergei Minasian, an independent political expert based in Yerevan, said the ruling party had a “significant advantage” in the campaign, thanks to its use of administrative resources. The European Union mission in Yerevan has expressed concern about “allegations of voter intimidation, attempts to buy votes, and the systemic use of administrative resources to aid certain competing parties.” It didn’t name any parties.

Landlocked Armenia, one of the poorest of the ex-Soviet nations, borders Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. It has suffered from a crippling economic blockade imposed by Turkey, which supports its ally Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia is also a member of Moscow-dominated economic and security alliances and hosts a Russian military base. The country has seen some unrest in recent years. In 2015, thousands demonstrated in Yerevan for weeks protesting electricity price hikes. In July, several dozen armed men captured a police compound in the capital, demanding freedom for an opposition activist and the government’s ouster. They held several police officers and medics hostage before eventually releasing them. The two-week siege left two people dead and several wounded and triggered rallies in support of the gunmen.

In March, several hundred protesters rallied in Yerevan after an activist who fed the siege perpetrators died in prison while on a hunger strike.

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to the report.

Gunmen in Armenia take paramedics hostage

July 27, 2016

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Police in Armenia say gunmen who have been barricaded in a police station for 10 days have taken an ambulance crew hostage after they came in to help the wounded following an exchange of fire with officers.

The group seized the police post in the capital, Yerevan, on July 17, demanding freedom for a jailed opposition figure, and took those inside hostage. The last of those hostages were released on Saturday.

After an exchange of fire before dawn Wednesday two of the gunmen surrendered and one police officer and two gunmen were wounded and taken to hospitals. Over 20 gunmen are believed to remain in the police station.

Police spokesman Ashot Agaronyan said the gunmen took the paramedics hostage after they were called in to treat the wounded.

51 people injured in clashes in Armenia

July 21, 2016

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — More than 50 people have been injured in clashes near a police station in Armenia’s capital where armed men have been holding hostages for four days and protesters erected barricades on a nearby avenue.

Police moved in late Wednesday night to clear out the protest camp. The health ministry said Thursday morning that 51 people have been hospitalized, 28 of whom were police. The country’s interior ministry said some 30 protesters have been detained.

The police station in the capital Yerevan was seized on Sunday by a group of gunmen seeking the release of an opposition figure who was arrested in June for illegal weapons possession. Investigators claimed he and his supporters were planning to seize government buildings.

5 Armenian policemen still held hostage a day after attack

July 18, 2016

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia’s security forces say armed supporters of a jailed opposition leader are still holding five policemen hostage a day after attacking a police station in the capital and killing one officer and wounding four others.

The National Security Service said in Monday’s statement that one of the officers held hostage and also an ambulance driver were freed overnight as a result of prolonged negotiations and undefined “special measures.”

More than 20 armed men took over the police station in Yerevan on Sunday to demand the release of Jirair Sefilian, who was arrested last month. Sefilian, a leader of the opposition group Founding Parliament, was charged with illegal acquisition and possession of weapons. His group has called for the government of the former Soviet republic to step down.

1 dead, hostages taken in attack on Armenian police station

July 17, 2016

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armed supporters of a jailed opposition leader attacked a police station in Armenia’s capital on Sunday, killing one officer, wounding two and taking several others hostage, the National Security Service said.

The attackers demanded the release of Jirair Sefilian, who was arrested last month, and called for the ouster of the government. Police cordoned off the area around the station in Yerevan’s Erebuni district. The National Security Service said negotiations were being conducted with the attackers for the release of the hostages. Few details of the attack were released.

A high-ranking police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said the attackers numbered about 20 and were holding at least eight officers hostage.

Sefilian, a leader of the opposition group Founding Parliament, was arrested June 20 and charged with illegal acquisition and possession of weapons. Investigators said he and his supporters were planning to seize government buildings and the television transmission tower.

Varuzhan Avetisian, a spokesman for the group, said they were demanding the release of all “political prisoners” and calling on Armenians to take to the streets to force the government to step down.

Russia defends selling arms to both Azerbaijan and Armenia

April 09, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Saturday defended its policy of selling arms to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, whose military forces have faced off in a sharp escalation of fighting around separatist Nagorno-Karabakh.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said if Russia stopped selling arms, both countries would simply seek new suppliers. “They would buy weapons in other countries, and the degree of their deadliness wouldn’t change,” he told Russian state television following visits to the capitals of Armenia and Azerbaijan. “But at the same time, this could to a certain degree destroy the balance” of forces that exists in the South Caucasus region.

Both Azerbaijani and Armenian forces this month have used artillery, tanks and other weapons on a scale not seen since a separatist war ended in 1994. The war left Karabakh, officially part of Azerbaijan, under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military.

The recent fighting has killed about 75 soldiers from both sides along with several civilians. A Russia-brokered truce went into effect Tuesday, but both sides accused the other of violating it daily.

The Russian arms sales to energy-rich Azerbaijan have angered many in Armenia, which has hosted a Russian military base and kept close security and economic ties to Russia. But the parallel arms sales reflect Russia’s desire to expand its influence in the strategic region, a key conduit for energy resources from the Caspian Sea to the West.

Russia has joined the United States and France in acting as mediators in Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which have dragged on since 1994 with no visible results.

With the OSCE Minsk Group meeting Saturday in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, hundreds of demonstrators rallied on a central square to protest the lack of progress by the negotiators. They demanded that the Karabakh separatists be a party to the peace talks and for Russia to stop selling arms to Azerbaijan, said Marine Manucharyan, one of the organizers. Their demands were delivered to the Russian, U.S. and French embassies.

The Russian representative to the Minsk Group, Igor Popov, said the mediators met with the political and military leadership of both sides, which he said “demonstrated a readiness to preserve the truce” and understand the need to return to a political discussion.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Saturday his country was committed to the peace process but had no intention of giving up territory and “would never allow the formation of a second Armenian state on Azerbaijani lands.”

Avet Demourian in Yerevan, Armenia, and Aida Sultanova in Baku, Azerbaijan, contributed.

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