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Probing the wave of unrest in Armenia

The stand-off in Yerevan is not a failed attempt at a ‘color revolution’ and is not directed against Russia. Nor does it threaten Armenia’s links to Russia. It is the result of widespread dissatisfaction with the government and with the internal situation in Armenia.

Rafael Babikian

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On the dawn of July 17, an armed group calling itself “The Daredevils of Sassoun” stormed a major police base in Erebuni, outside the capital Yerevan.  The group’s name comes from an Armenian heroic poem where a group of men fight for the Armenian cause of independence somewhere in the middle ages.

Shortly after the operation, the group posted a video on Facebook in which one of the gunman was heard saying “We are doing this for you, come out to the streets, we have taken this path for you”. The gunmen seemed determined, wearing blue and white bullet vests, armed with different variants of AK rifles. During the initial assault, one police officer was killed, and 8 were taken as hostage including the Deputy Police Chief of Yerevan, Valery Osipyan, who arrived at the scene to negotiate with the gunmen. The hostages were released gradually in the coming days, signaling that the situation was not a typical hostage crisis.

Under fresh impressions of the coup attempt in Turkey, some media outlets rushed to report that something similar was going on in Armenia. Some went as far as saying that members of the Armenian Air Force had toppled the president. As the ambiguity surrounding the situation gradually faded, it was clear that no coup had taken place and anything of that sort was implausible. 

The gunmen were identified as loyalists to Jirayr Sefilian, a staunch critic of the incumbent President Serj Sargsyan. Sefilian was a military detachment commander in the first Karabakh war who entered the Armenian political scene through his “Founding Parliament” opposition group. Until his arrest on June 20, Sefilian’s call for protests had little turnout. His opposition to President Sargsyan was extreme and unorthodox, with sometimes calls to take up arms as a last resort.

Sefilian was charged with planning public unrest and illegal possession of weapons. After searching his residency though, no weapons were found. The opposition called the arrest politically motivated, linking it to Sefilian’s press conference where he announced that the Armenian-backed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh had lost around 800 hectares of land during the intense clashes with the Azerbaijani Army in early April, something that was later announced by President Sargsyan. It’s worth adding that Sefilian and his group have been against any territorial concessions when it comes to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Something which President Sargsyan has been rumored to be negotiating on lately during his trilateral meetings with Presidents Putin and Aliyev of Russia and Azerbaijan respectively.

Looking into the composition of the gunmen, there are well-known figures from the first Karabakh War who are iconic to Armenians all around the world. Pavel Manoukyan, the leader of the group, was a charismatic freedom fighter. His son Aram, had served in the special forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army lately. There are other prominent figures from the first Karabakh War, such as Arayik Khandoyan. The legacy of the men involved in the operation is probably what has kept the Armenian police forces from an all-out storm on the occupied police base in fear of public outrage. Manoukyan and his son have been shot lately in their leg and transported to hospital where they have been taken into custody. While Khandoyan has been treated for similar injuries inside the occupied base.

The Armenian public and diaspora were left with mixed feelings about the violent methods adopted by the gunmen. People defined the group by a wide range of terms, calling them anything from ultranationalists to “Armenia’s last hope”. But what’s interesting is that most of those who did not condone the methods, did agree with the gunmen’s demands. The popularity of President Sargsyan has been hanging by a thread for years now. The lack of popularity stems mostly from uneasy economic situation in Armenia. Many Armenians feel that the government has not done enough to promote economic growth, fight corruption and take on oligarchic monopolies, many of whom are members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia itself.

Previously, Armenians have been somewhat reluctant in taking part in protests which would spark public unrest, as most believed that efforts should be directed towards fighting Azerbaijan. The 4-Day War in April and the rumors of ceding land though have acted as catalyst for what is going on right now. There are protests every night, and the number of protesters has been gradually increasing. There have been riots and arrests. Tear gas and sound grenades have been used by the police, but protest participation and demands have not backed down.

What’s happening in Armenia is not another Ukrainian Euromaidan as some pundits would like to call it. The protesters have not come out with any chants against any country, and the issue is far from being related to Armenia’s deep ties with Russia, which has been getting deeper every year. Some Armenians do feel uneasy with the large amounts of modern offensive weaponry that Russia recently sold to Azerbaijan, especially after some of those heavy weapons were deployed and used during the 4-Day War in April.

On the eve of July 31, things took a different turn when one of the gunmen, Varoujan Avetisyan, who was a previous lawyer at the Armenian Ministry of Defense, announced that the gunmen would surrender to the authorities. Avetisyan added that they had the choice to fight against the police, but they decided not to do so, because their ‘struggle’ was not aimed at them. He referred to himself and to his colleagues as ‘prisoners of war’.

It is unclear what will solve the motives behind current status quo in Armenia, and most importantly in the favor of which party. The gunmen have surrendered ending the direct standoff, but not the indirect one. President Sargsyan has surprisingly remained silent on the matter, other than one short public appearance. Some signal that unrest might continue up to the trilateral meeting on Karabakh in August. For the moment though, none of the sides seem to be the clear cut winners.

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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“Foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails (Video)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx): Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails was hacked by foreign actor, and it was not Russia.

Alex Christoforou

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A stunning revelation that hardly anyone in the mainstream media is covering.

Fox News gave Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) the opportunity to explain what was going on during his questioning of Peter Strzok, when the the Texas Congressman stated that a “foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Aside from this segment on Fox News, this story is not getting any coverage, and we know why. It destroys the entire ‘Russia hacked Hillary’ narrative.

Gohmert states that this evidence is irrefutable and shows that a foreign actor, not connected to Russia in any way, intercepted and distributed Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails.

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Via Zerohedge

As we sift through the ashes of Thursday’s dumpster-fire Congressional hearing with still employed FBI agent Peter Strzok, Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller plucked out a key exchange between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) and Strzok which revealed a yet-unknown bombshell about the Clinton email case.

Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia. When this was discovered by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), IG Chuck McCullough sent his investigator Frank Ruckner and an attorney to notify Strzok along with three other people about the “anomaly.”

Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” Recall that Horowitz concluded last month that despite Strzok’s extreme bias towards Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump – none of it translated to Strzok’s work at the FBI.

In other words; Strzok, while investigating Clinton’s email server, completely ignored the fact that most of Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity – while IG Horowitz simply didn’t want to know about it.

Daily Caller reports…

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert continued..

“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.”

Strzok admitted to meeting with Ruckner but said he couldn’t remember the “specific” content of their discussion.

“The forensic examination was done by the ICIG and they can document that,” Gohmert said, “but you were given that information and you did nothing with it.”

According to Zerohedge “Mr. Horowitz got a call four times from someone wanting to brief him about this, and he never returned the call,” Gohmert said – and Horowitz wouldn’t return the call.

And while Peter Strzok couldn’t remember the specifics of his meeting with the IG about the giant “foreign entity” bombshell, he texted this to his mistress Lisa Page when the IG discovered the “(C)” classification on several of Clinton’s emails – something the FBI overlooked:

“Holy cow … if the FBI missed this, what else was missed? … Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this.”

Via Zerohedge

In November of 2017, IG McCullough – an Obama appointee – revealed to Fox News that he received pushback when he tried to tell former DNI James Clapper about the foreign entity which had Clinton’s emails and other anomalies.

Instead of being embraced for trying to expose an illegal act, seven senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) wrote a letter accusing him of politicizing the issue.

“It’s absolutely irrelevant whether something is marked classified, it is the character of the information,” he said. Fox News reports…

McCullough said that from that point forward, he received only criticism and an “adversarial posture” from Congress when he tried to rectify the situation.

“I expected to be embraced and protected,” he said, adding that a Hill staffer “chided” him for failing to consider the “political consequences” of the information he was blowing the whistle on.

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Donald Trump plays good cop and bad cop with a weak Theresa May (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 55.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was momentous, not for its substance, but rather for its sheer entertainment value.

Trump started his trip to the United Kingdom blasting Theresa May for her inability to negotiate a proper Brexit deal with the EU.  Trump ended his visit holding hands with the UK Prime Minister during a press conference where the most ‘special relationship’ between the two allies was once again reaffirmed.

Protests saw giant Trump “baby balloons” fly over London’s city center, as Trump played was his own good cop and bad cop to the UK PM, outside London at the Chequers…often times leaving May’s head spinning.

Even as Trump has left London, he remains front and center in the mind of Theresa May, who has now stated that Trump advised her to “sue” the European Union to resolve the tense negotiations over Brexit.

Trump had mentioned to reporters on Friday at a joint press conference with Theresa May that he had given the British leader a suggestion that she found too “brutal.”

Asked Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show what that suggestion was, May: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.” May added…

“What the president also said at that press conference was `Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck.”‘

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris summarize what was a state visit like no other, as Trump trolled the UK PM from beginning to end, and left London knowing that he got the better of a weakened British Prime Minister, who may not survive in office past next week.

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Via CNBC

It wasn’t exactly clear what Trump meant. The revelation came after explosive and undiplomatic remarks Trump made this week about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the Brexit negotiations — as he made his first official visit to Britain.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and threatened to undermine May’s already fragile hold on power. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

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