The Armenian government believes that Moscow’s August 7 ban on food imports from the West could offer its own weather-beaten agricultural sector a chance for a comeback. But some local analysts scoff at the notion.
Amid the recent escalation of hostilities surrounding the contested Nagorno-Karabakh territory, authorities and experts in both Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaging in the old Soviet practice of identifying the outside power that most benefits from conflict. For many in Armenia, the answer is straightforward enough – Russia.
As of August 1, Armenia will require a doctor’s prescription for sales of Cytotec, a Pfizer-made stomach-ulcer drug that Armenian women often misuse for at-home abortions. But while specialists have hailed the new regulation, the medication still appears to be available for sale without a prescription in some Armenian pharmacies.
Cytotec is contraindicated for pregnant women because it causes severe uterine contractions, which can result in bleeding and miscarriages. The Ministry of Health stated that it removed the drug from over-the-counter sales because of the potential effects, ranging from post-hemorrhage anemia to death, that it can have on pregnant women who ignore those contraindications.
Countries other than Armenia also require a prescription for its use.
But despite the ministry’s new rule, sales of Cytotec appear to be continuing without a prescription. Clerks at nine pharmacies visited by EurasiaNet.org on August 1 in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, said that they still had the medication available for sale without a prescription.
After August 2, however, such sales will be “difficult,” the clerks said. Hundreds of Cytotec pills have been sold in the days leading up to the August-1 switchover to prescription-only sales, they added.
At just 200 drams (50 cents) for a 200-microgram tablet, Cytotec's cost is 100 times lower than that of a hospital abortion.
According to Ministry of Health data provided to EurasiaNet.org, imports of Cytotec to Armenia soared by tenfold between 2010 and 2011, the latest year for which complete data is available, to 26,655 packs.
Media-rights observers fear that the Armenian government’s attempt to force two media outlets to disclose the names of confidential sources has set a dangerous precedent for the future of journalism in Armenia.
During the Soviet era, Communist authorities occasionally had dissidents committed to psychiatric hospitals as a way of keeping them quiet. Times have changed, but rights activists in Armenia say psychiatric hospitals are still occasionally being used and abused, especially as a means of settling financial and other disputes among friends and relatives.
It only requires a glance at the dance-floor showdown in the Soviet cult-comedy “Mimino” to see that competition between the tiny South-Caucasus neighbors of Georgia and Armenia can run strong. No less so with economic alliances.
As Armenia prepares to join the Russia-led Customs Union, a surprise decision to erect a statue in the capital Yerevan in honor of the Soviet-era political leader Anastas Mikoian is raising hackles among intellectuals and rights activists.
Russian Ambassador Ivan Volinkin’s recent call “to neutralize” Western-funded non-governmental organizations in Armenia is stoking fears among Armenian activists that the country’s pending membership in the Moscow-led Customs Union will prompt a rollback of civil rights.