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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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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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The Stampede of the Gadarene Swine: US Leaders Allowing Ukraine to Pull Them into Global War

There is no way in any sane assessment that the Ukrainian forces – and certainly not the neo-Nazi militias recruited in the west of the country to terrorize the east – can be regarded as “brothers” of the US armed forces.

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Authored by Martin Sieff via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


George Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel was right – Again: The only thing the human race learns from history is that it learns nothing from history.

In 1914,the British Empire, largest in human history and one of the longest-lasting, charged into World War I to defend “gallant little Belgium” whose King Leopold over the previous 30 years had carried out one of the longest, largest genocides of all time, killing 10 million people in the Congo.

Germany, wealthiest, most prosperous nation in Europe, blundered into the same needless war when feckless Kaiser Wilhelm II causally gave sweeping approval to Austria-Hungary to annihilate the tiny nation of Serbia. Millions of brave and idealistic Russians eagerly volunteered to fight in the war to protect “gallant little Serbia.” Most of them died too. There is no record that any of the Serbian leaders after the war visited any of their mass graves.

Now it is the United States’ turn.

Since the end of the Cold War US policymakers, presidents and their congresses have carried out virtually every stupidity and folly imaginable for any major power. The only one they have so far avoided has been the danger of stumbling into a full scale world war.

However, now, with the escalating and increasingly hysterical US support for the shady and risk-taking junta in Kiev, President Donald Trump risks committing that most dire and unforgivable of all horrors.

Trump today is no more than putty in the hands of his national security adviser John Bolton, one of the masterminds of the catastrophe that was the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Bolton is just like his hero Winston Churchill a century ago during World War I. He always gets his way, always gets the wars and battles he wants and bungles them embarrassingly every time. And like the young Churchill, Bolton never learns, never mellows and he never changes. It is always everybody else’s fault.

Churchill finally did grow and learn. His famous activities of the 1930s were not meant to start a new world war with Germany under the far worse leadership of Adolf Hitler: He wanted to avert such a war.

The invaluable diaries of Ivan Maisky, the Soviet Union’s ambassador to Britain through the 1930s make clear that even then Churchill was eager – alone in the British ruling classes – to establish a serious close defensive alliance with Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union. He recognized that would be the only way to box in Hitler and prevent a global catastrophe.

But Bolton has not learned from his hero – Quite the reverse. He is now impelling Trump on a reckless course of empowering the dangerous adventurers who with US support have seized Ukraine and have spent the past nearly five years wrecking it.

Even worse, the same kind of absurd sentimentalizing of an obscure, tiny or unstable ally that doomed Britain, Russia and Germany to unimaginable suffering and loss in 1914 now permeates US decision-makers, strategists and their pontificating pundits about Ukraine. On March 1, 2016, US General Philip Breedlove, then NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) memorably referred to “our Ukrainian brothers and sisters” in a Pentagon press briefing

There is no way in any sane assessment that the ramshackle Ukrainian forces – and certainly not the neo-Nazi militias recruited in the west of the country to terrorize the east – can be regarded as “brothers” of the US armed forces. The US and Soviet troops who met on the River Elbe on April 25, 1945 after advancing a combined more than 2,000 miles to liberate Europe from the darkest tyranny in its history could truly be called “brothers.”

However, the US military today and the Ukrainian forces they are being drawn in to protect certainly are not “brothers and sisters.” No poll has been taken since then across the United States, as far as I am aware as to whether the American people would be willing to risk full-scale nuclear war to defend a government in Ukraine that is demonstrably unpopular among its own people.

Trump was elected president in November 2016 precisely because he was the only candidate in that shock election who unambiguously called for the United States to end its 70-year fixation with getting pulled into one endless war and confrontation after another around the world. It would be the darkest of ironies if instead he took America into its last and most catastrophic conflict – a nuclear confrontation from which there could be no recovery, no escape and no survival.

Britain, Russia and Germany in 1914 were all destroyed by the deliberate plotting and manipulations of vastly smaller or weaker allies run by psychopathic gamblers. The rulers of Kiev today, in their entirely reckless disregard for the dangers of global thermonuclear war clearly fit into that category.

Policymakers in Moscow recognize this dire reality. Their counterparts in Washington remain amazingly totally blind to it. Their only idea of strategy is the suicidal stampede of the Gadarene Swine in the Gospels off the end of a cliff. And they are taking the entire human race with them.

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FBI, CIA Told WaPo They Doubted Key Allegation In Steele Dossier

The WaPo sent reporters to every hotel in Prague, trying to figure out if Cohen was ever there, and came away empty.

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Via Zerohedge


FBI and CIA sources told a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter that they didn’t believe a key claim contained in the “Steele Dossier,” the document the Obama FBI relied on to obtain a surveillance warrant on a member of the Trump campaign.

The Post‘s Greg Miller told an audience at an October event that the FBI and CIA did not believe that former longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen visited Prague during the 2016 election to pay off Russia-linked hackers who stole emails from key Democrats, reports the Daily Caller‘s Chuck Ross.

“We’ve talked to sources at the FBI and the CIA and elsewhere — they don’t believe that ever happened,” said Miller during the October event which aired Saturday on C-SPAN.

We literally spent weeks and months trying to run down… there’s an assertion in there that Michael Cohen went to Prague to settle payments that were needed at the end of the campaign. We sent reporters to every hotel in Prague, to all over the place trying to – just to try to figure out if he was ever there, and came away empty. -Greg Miller

Ross notes that WaPo somehow failed to report this information, nor did Miller include this tidbit of narrative-killing information in his recent book, “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the Subversion of American Democracy.”

Miller also admits that the dossier’s broad claims are more closely aligned with reality, but that the document breaks down once you focus on individual claims.

Steele, using Kremlin sources, claimed in his dossier that Cohen and three associates went to Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin officials for the purpose of discussing “deniable cash payments” made in secret so as to cover up “Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team.”

Cohen’s alleged Prague visit captured attention largely because the former Trump fixer has vehemently denied it, and also because it would seem to be one of the easier claims in Steele’s 35-page report to validate or invalidate.

Debate over the salacious document was reignited when McClatchy reported April 15 that special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence Cohen visited Prague. No other news outlets have verified the reporting, and Cohen denied it at the time.

Cohen last denied the dossier’s allegations in late June, a period of time when he was gearing up to cooperate with prosecutors against President Donald Trump. Cohen served as a cooperating witness for prosecutors in both New York and the special counsel’s office. –Daily Caller

Cohen’s attorney and longtime Clinton pal Lanny Davis vehemently denied on August 22, one day after Cohen pleaded guilty in his New York case – that Cohen had never been to Prague, telling Bloomberg “Thirteen references to Mr. Cohen are false in the dossier, but he has never been to Prague in his life.”

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