Financial transfers from Russia to the South Caucasus country of Armenia have dipped by a staggering 56 percent over the past year, leaving the thousands of Armenian families who depend on Russian remittances struggling to make ends meet.
Three months into Armenia’s membership in the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, the search for work in Russia, a longtime regional employment-hub, has become as much about finding ways around bans on Armenian migrants as about finding an actual job.
After years of controversy, the French-run hypermarket chain Carrefour, one of the world’s largest retail giants, finally opened a store in Armenia earlier in March. But, for many Armenians, the opening signified more than just easier access to a vast array of retail items. Rather, it signaled a potentially significant step for Armenia toward genuine market competition.
Activists in Armenia are worrying that new government-proposed requirements for non-governmental organizations will undermine Armenia’s relatively freely functioning civil-society sector. Some believe that the Armenian government, in mulling upending the status quo, is seeking to please the country’s economic and strategic overlord – Russia.
A signboard welcoming travellers into breakaway Nagorno Karabakh proclaims a “Free Artsakh” (the traditional Armenian name for the region), but on Saturday a group of Armenian activists learned the limit to that freedom.
The topic is controversial, and, apparently, not one that Karabakh’s de-facto leader, Bako Sahakian, a onetime KGB employee, is eager to debate publicly. Particularly amidst an uptick in security-concerns, as fatal clashes with Azerbaijani forces continue.
Sahakian earlier had warned that the motorcade could bring undesired consequences to Karabakh.
But participants charge it was the Karabakhi police who did that.
As the motorcade on January 31 drove toward Karabakh, video footage filmed by Founding Parliament activists showed uniformed police demanding documents (claiming they were “checking for a raid”), and then starting to attack both the cars and their occupants.
On an overhead ridge, masked men with automatic rifles closely watched the clash, while various men in civilian clothes surfaced to join in. One of the witnesses, Aram Hakobian, claimed to Aravot.am that gunshots had been fired, and that the uniformed men had thrown the Armenian flags on the ground and stomped on them.
Two weeks after the killing of a family in the northern Armenian town of Gyumri, there are more questions than answers concerning the actions and motives of the individual accused of committing the mass murder, 18-year-old Russian army private, Valery Permyakov.
A little over a year ago, the northwestern Armenian city of Gyumri, home to Russia’s 102nd army base, welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to town with pomp, circumstance, and waving flags. Now, protesters in the town are trampling Russian flags underfoot instead.
This has been a year that many Armenian farmers would like to forget. First, unfavorable weather led to a poor harvest, and now, thanks in part to the significant devaluation of the national currency, the dram, many farmers are struggling to repay their debts.
Santa Claus supposedly received a desperate letter from a woman in Armenia this year – a plea for financial help after enduring a year of economic hardship. “I don’t know how to live now,” the woman, a character in a TV ad for the Armenian lottery, complained.
Armenians are seething over Russia’s possible role in the shoot-down of an Armenian helicopter near the frontlines in Nagorno Karabakh. Feelings of betrayal are such that the popular mood is souring on Armenia’s pending membership in a Moscow-led trade bloc.