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LEVON MARKOS: ‘BANDIT SARGSYAN TOOK HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS AWAY FROM ME’

The Azeri Times

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Russian businessman Levon Markos sent an open letter to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, in which he tells how the Armenian authorities took away his property. At the beginning of 2000s, the businessman invested about $300 million in the economy of Armenia, buying up, at the request of the president, bankrupt enterprises. However, then his entire business was taken away, and he himself was put on an international wanted list.

‘At the beginning of 2000s, then-President Robert Kocharyan, you (then the Armenian defence minister and secretary of the Security Council) and the Chairman of the Armenian Central Bank Tigran Sargsyan, having played on my patriotic feelings, decided to involve me in saving the Armenian economy.

You personally came to Moscow with an offer to buy some Armenian factories, plants and other enterprises that had actually ‘gone to the bottom’ and did not represent any economic interest. In addition, you persuaded me for a long time, almost begged to acquire the bankrupt ‘Credit-Yerevan’ bank. All this was motivated by the fact that ‘the country’s budget is empty and requires financial income,’ says an open letter from the businessman published in the Armenian media.

Levon Markos notes that at one time he believed Serzh Sargsyan and decided to invest considerable money in the Armenian economy. To do this, he even had to curtail some of his promising and very competitive assets in Russia, and among them, in particular, the network of petrol stations ‘Sretenka-Petroleum,’ covering about 25 filling stations in Moscow alone.

‘In addition, I took large loans in Russian banks and invested all these significant funds in the Armenian economy. Because I sincerely wanted to help my homeland, whivh was in a difficult situation. Trusting you and taking your promises at the surface value, I acquired in Armenia a number of enterprises and facilities that had gone bankrupt and did not represent any economic interest. In addition to the ‘Credit-Yerevan’ bank, according to your recommendations, I bought: Sisian stone processing plant, Kapan Copper-Molybdenum industrial complex, Basalt Jrvezh OJSC, Agreenex CJSC, Hrazdan greenhouse complex, Sevan Motel complex, Intermotor Armenia (in 2002 this company was the official distributor of Mercedes Benz in Armenia), Zepur beauty salon. And long before that, I already owned three markets in Yerevan: Yerevan Market N1 LLC (near GUM, now ‘Tashir’); LLC Yerevan market N2 (Covered market on Mashtots avenue); LLC Yerevan market N7 (in the 3rd Nork massif). I did not hide that I came to Armenia seriously and for a long time and intended to develop a diversified business. Based on the above-mentioned and a number of other industrial facilities, I developed several promising industrial projects. Their total value was estimated by independent Moscow auditors at $300 million. These projects could give a serious impetus to the economic development of Armenia. And some of them came to the very start. However further business did not move. No specifics, only soap bubbles and empty words,’ says the letter.

The businessman notes that, having invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Armenian economy, including a certain ‘stabilisation deposit,’ he incurred huge losses and was forced to deal with local judicial executors.

‘You acted dishonestly, Sargsyan. You deceived me: in the name of, so to speak, ‘salvation of the Motherland,’ you palmed off on me the bankrupt ‘Credit-Yerevan’ bank, from which at that time everyone was pumping money. The enterprises that I acquired you took away illegally, in a raider’s way, seized them and gave to your friends: Samvel Aleksanyan and Gagik Khachatryan. By the way, I have information that Aleksanyan and Khachatryan have repeatedly stated in their circles that they transfer money and incomes from my objects to you for public needs, and you put them in your pocket. What is the result in the end? The result is that for more than a decade and a half you have illegally appropriated the proceeds from my objects that were banditly captured by your lieutenants: Lfik Samo, Black Gago and others,’ complains the businessman.

In the end, a criminal case was initiated against Levon Markos and he was put on the international wanted list. However, the investigative authorities of the Russian Federation, having thoroughly studied the materials of the case for several years, came to the conclusion that there was no crime in the actions of the businessman.

‘Today many compatriots turn to me, who tell with pain and bitterness about the lawlessness and arbitrariness that are happening in Armenia. The corruptional-raider system you have built up continues its black business. In recent years, your team, in fact, has robbed 34 large Armenian businessmen. An approved scheme is used: first, people ‘for the sake of the Motherland’ are cheated out of large amounts of money, and then accusations are made against them in order to remove them from business, squeeze them out of Armenia, and misappropriate the ‘sold’ objects for themselves, as well the money paid for them. These same businessmen repeat exactly the same story, like the one that you, Robert Kocharyan and Tigran Sargsyan made to me. That’s how you and your ilk make for yourselves multi-billion dollar fortunes in mendicant Armenia,’ says the letter.

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Armenia

Armenia’s “revolution” faces its biggest test yet

The Azeri Times

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After winning local elections, Pashinyan is seeking to push his advantage. And the old guard may feel it has nothing left to lose.
Armenians poured into the streets of Yerevan on October 2, summoned by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who said that the country was at risk of a “counter-revolution” fomented by remnants of the regime he toppled in the spring. A day later, the situation remained in a standoff between Pashinyan and his opposition, and the crisis has posed the most dramatic challenge to Pashinyan’s “Velvet Revolution” in the five months he’s been in power.

So how did it come to this?

When Pashinyan was leading protests against the former administration in the spring, he made a four-part series of demands: the resignation of then-leader Serzh Sargsyan; the election of a new prime minister; a new election law; and new elections.

The first two were quickly implemented, with Pashinyan himself elected prime minister. The third is a work in progress, with some election reforms having already passed and others in the works. But it is the final step, the new parliamentary elections, that are supposed to cement the “revolution,” as Pashinyan calls it.

Until recently, Pashinyan and his team had suggested a wide range of times for the elections – from this fall to next spring – without setting a firm date. There were two primary, but contradictory, considerations, at play.

He wanted the elections as soon as possible, because his bloc in parliament held only nine out of 105 seats, and he was working with a tenuous coalition of allies of the old regime, including the Prosperous Armenia party, run by oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan, and the national stalwarts Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF).

But he also needed time: His party was still small, and in the last parliamentary elections it got only seven percent of the vote. While Pashinyan is himself wildly popular in Armenia, and that representation would certainly multiply manifold, elections still represented a risk.

Yerevan municipal elections in late September, however, resulted in a landslide victoryfor Pashinyan’s “My Step” slate, which took 81 percent of the vote. Encouraged by the result, Pashinyan moved to push ahead the election date; the day after the Yerevan elections he said that the parliamentary vote should take place “very quickly.”

This apparently triggered the “counter-revolution.” Led by the formerly ruling Republican Party of Armenia, lawmakers pushed ahead a vote to change the law on what would happen if parliament were to be prevented from meeting. Under the old rules, that would trigger new elections; the new law would remove that provision. The goal seemed to be to neutralize the threat of street protests, which could conceivably be deployed to block parliament, and which remain the most potent weapon in Pashinyan’s arsenal.

Most remarkably, the Republicans were joined by the MPs from Prosperous Armenia and the ARF. Pashinyan responded by firing all the ministers from those two parties, but it remains unclear why those parties chose this moment to turn against Pashinyan and again throw their lots in with the Republicans.

One factor could have been the prospect of their looming political death: Prosperous Armenia, which had been mooted as a potential spoiler for Pashinyan due to Tsarukyan’s popularity among many poor, rural Armenians, got only 7 percent in the Yerevan elections. The ARF did even worse, garnering less than 2 percent.

Whatever the case, Pashinyan now must rely again on mass people power. Pashinyan estimated that 10,000 people came out to parliament to support him on October 2, and if there is a genuine prospect of a “counter-revolution” it is not difficult to imagine crowds far greater than that taking to the streets again. While hints of cynicism are beginning to creep into Armenian political conversations, and there is some chance of protest fatigue, Pashinyan still remains very popular. Maybe more importantly, the old regime remains deeply hated, and any prospect of their return will certainly be vigorously opposed.

Pashinyan has promised to resign, which would force new elections in the parliament for a prime minister. If those fail, they would trigger new elections. Pashinyan appears to be playing a sort of political chicken, gambling that his opponents will be unable to muster support for an opposition candidate. The smart money would seem to favor him. But members of the old regime, along with their once and again allies, may see no need to back down, no matter the degree of public pressure. And they still retain many levers of power, including large swaths of the bureaucracy and at least tacit support from Moscow.

This may be the old regime’s last, desperate attempt to reverse their losses. Their odds may be slim, but they may feel they have nothing left to lose.

Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.

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Armenia

Armenia provocation: Villages in Tovuz shelled

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Armenia committed provocation against civilians on the front line, informs the press-service of the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry.

Starting from the evening of September 14 until the morning of September 15, the units of the Armenian armed forces, using weapons of different calibre, including artillery mount, committed provocation on Tovuz, Terter and Aghdam directions.

The enemy, in particular, subjected to fire the positions of the Azerbaijan Army, stationed in the direction of the villages of Munjuglu, Kokhanebi, Asrik Jirdakhan and Garalar of Tovuz region, as well as civilians living in these villages.

There are no casualties among servicemen and the population of Azerbaijan. Damage has been caused to several houses, property of the population and civil infrastructure.

The implementation of such provocative actions by Armenian side on the eve of the significant events and holidays celebrated in Azerbaijan is purposeful.

The Ministry of Defence reports that as a result of urgent retaliatory actions undertaken by the units of the Azerbaijan Army, the enemy’s activity was suppressed. The military-political leadership of Armenia bears all responsibility for the destruction and losses of the enemy.

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Armenia

Azerbaijani Army prepares for offensive in Karabakh (Large-scale exercises)

The Azeri Times

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In accordance with the plan approved by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Ilham Aliyev, large-scale operational-tactical exercises with the participation of various military branches of troops, Army Corpses, and formations of the Azerbaijan Army will be held under the supervision of the Minister of Defence, Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov from 17th to 22nd of September.

As informs the press-service of the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry. the exercises will involve more than 20,000 military personnel, more than 200 tanks and other armoured vehicles, more than 120 rocket and artillery mounts of different calibre, multiple launch rocket systems, and mortars, up to 10 fighter jets and bomber aircraft, up to 20 army aviation units for various purposes.

In the course of the exercises, the issues of the tank breakthrough of the enemy’s echeloned defence in several directions, the crushing defeat of armed groups and forward units of Armenia in the territory of Karabakh will be worked out, tasks will be fulfilled for the liberation of the occupied territories by the destruction of military and strategic facilities located on the territory of the enemy by rocket-artillery and air strikes.

The military personnel’s possession skills of the military equipment and weapons that have been adopted into the armament of the Azerbaijan Army over the past year will also be checked.

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