Episode 206 | Recorded: January 15, 2023
Well, we all know that Artsakh has been blockaded by Azerbaijan for over a month now. This happens to be day 35.
Last Monday afternoon, Artsakh’s main power line connecting Stepanakert and Goris was damaged. ArtsakhEnergo has still not been allowed access to the site of repairs to restore service. So each day there are rolling blackouts to make do with locally produced electricity.
Mid-week there was a 24-hour Internet outage, but service was restored by Friday evening. Per our reports from Stepanakert, supplies are low, food stamps are being implemented right now, and over 200 businesses have shut down, and so a serious state budget revenue shortfall is expected. This is where things stand for now.
Turning to the politics in Stepanakert
Last week and this week, Artsakh president Arayik Harutyunyan and state minister Ruben Vardanyan announced new appointments to the cabinet.
The key appointment was Sergey Ghazaryan, who is taking over the post of foreign minister from David Babayan.
On Saturday rumors surfaced that Artsakh president Arayik Harutyunyan might release Ruben Vardanyan as State Minister. Vardanyan himself denied that he was going to resign, and his statement also said that under the current circumstances, it would be unacceptable for the president or parliament of Artsakh to resign, because it would fulfill the enemy’s agenda.
Hrant, on Sunday this news was on fire in Armenia.
Aliyev has been vehement in his declarations that he would never talk with Vardanyan, and that he wants Vardanyan to leave Artsakh as quickly as possible. Their press has speculated publicly about carrying out raids into Stepanakert to either arrest him or even assassinate him.
Nearly a dozen press and media outlets were left out of the invitation list to attend Nikol Pashinyan’s press conference on Monday. The Union of journalists of Armenia called on Pashinyan to rectify the situation and allow access to all Armenian news outlets.
It seems like this press conference was mostly a staged show for Pashinyan to make statements in the form of questions that he wanted asked, in order to give prepared answers for them. Also notable was the fact that Pashinyan and Aliyev held their major press conferences on the same day. Maybe next week we should talk about Aliyev’s statements.
It’s clear that Pashinyan is hinting that the closure of the Russian base in Armenia is on the table for him. He left a level of ambiguity to give himself an out, but the trial balloon is clear.
The removal of Russia from the South Caucasus is a fundamental western geopolitical goal and we’ve discussed this on our show in the past.
In December the parliament approved the Ministry of Justice proposal to consolidate the police, rescue, and immigration services into a new Ministry of Interior. Last weekend Pashinyan named his new minister of interior to be a childhood friend of his, Vahe Ghazaryan. The move was widely criticized by the opposition, as well as civic groups and international NGOs.
In his press conference, Pashinyan said that for 2022 his government had predicted or promised 7% economic growth, but due to the effects of the war in Ukraine something around 12-13% was achieved. In fact what I recall was that his minister of the economy had promised a double digit growth, but anyway.
For 2023, Pashinyan expects 7% economic growth. The World Bank expects 4.1%.
We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.
Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.
Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.
Asbed is founder of Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.