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.
Leaflets placed at the 62-meter-high Kiev Bridge in the Armenian capital of Yerevan offer a simple message: “Choose life, not death.” They are also a sign that Armenia is grappling with an uncomfortable reality – a drastic rise in the suicide rate.
The Yerevan neighbors of parliamentarian Mher Sedrakian, a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, have a persistent problem with noise. But this is not about wild parties or car horns. Rather, it is about lions.
Armenia has finalized its accession to the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, an intended regional counterweight to the European Union. But while Armenian and Russian officials focus on future prosperity, some Armenian observers believe membership in the bloc could exacerbate Armenia’s security challenges.
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.