The Rev. Grigor Mkrtchian is dealing with the biggest logistical challenge of his life, and he could not be happier. The leader of the Roman Catholic community of the Armenian city of Gyumri is involved in preparations for an open-air mass that Pope Francis will celebrate there during his visit to Armenia later this week.
Thousands of people continued to hold a nonstop demonstration in Yerevan on Sunday night, rejecting its organizers’ calls to unblock a key street in the city center voiced after concessions made to the protesters by President Serzh Sarkisian.
It is late afternoon and the cozy school of Aygek looks as deserted as it should be after weekday classes. But one classroom in this village about 10 kilometers south of the Armenian capital, Yerevan, is buzzing with activity: about two dozen schoolchildren are using software that sets tasks for a robot they have assembled.
As the Russia-Ukraine crisis unfolds, the Armenian government is casting its diplomatic lot with the Kremlin. Some in Yerevan worry the government is committing a geopolitical blunder by expressing a clear preference for Russia over the West.
Russia’s escalating confrontation with the West resulting from its annexation of Crimea has thrown long-running international efforts to end the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh into uncertainty. Analysts in Yerevan believe that the standoff bodes ill for continued joint US-Russian mediation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, which is seen as critical for achieving a compromise settlement.
Political fighting is escalating as Armenia’s presidential election approaches. A long-time, former Armenian foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, is facing controversial criminal charges in what is widely regarded as an effort by President Serzh Sargsyan to neutralize Robert Kocharian, his predecessor and potentially most dangerous rival.