Hrant Mikaelian - Latest on Armenian Azerbaijani Negotiations | Economic State in Armenia | September Yerevan Mayoral Elections | Estimating the War Dead | Hayaqve [.Am] [EP269]

Posted on Monday, Jul 17, 2023 | Category: Armenia, Artsakh, Politics, Poll | Series: wir



  • Latest on Armenian Azerbaijani Negotiations
  • Economic State in Armenia
  • September Yerevan Mayoral Elections
  • Estimating the War Dead
  • Hayaqve [.am]

Episode 269 | Recorded: July 17, 2023

Show Notes

Artsakh and Armenian-Azerbaijani Negotiations

Surprise Brussels Meeting; “Humiliating” Announcement by Charles Michel

Earlier this week, several days after Aliyev unexpectedly praised Pashinyan, saying that he’s happy with everything that Pashinyan has publicly declared and now he just needs to put all that on paper, we got a surprise announcement that Aliyev and Pashinyan would meet in Brussels on July 15, almost a week earlier than planned earlier. This is all while Artsakh remains completely blockaded.

After the meeting, Charles Michel, president of the European Council and the moderator of the meeting between Pashinyan and Aliyev, made an announcement saying that the negotiations were “very efficient”.


  • Michel repeated the “recognized” territory of each side: 29800 and 86600.
  • Michel welcomed Aliyev’s offer to send “aid” to Artsakh through Aghdam and said that both Aghdam and Lachin/Kashatagh should be used for supplies to Artsakh.
  • Michel referred to both the Aghdam route and Lachin route as roads (whereas in the past Lachin was referred to as a corridor)
  • Talks about exchange of prisoners who have “accidentally appeared on the other side”
  • The Artsakh side remains un-represented in the negotiations and in fact in a complete blockade.
  • There was no mention of the ICC decisions about the blockade!

In the end, Michel invited Aliyev and Pashinyan to a discussion again at the end of the summer. In the meantime, there may be a 5-way meeting that will be joined by Germany’s Olaf Sholz and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

The reaction from Artsakh didn’t take long. Davit Babayan, advisor to Arayik Harutyunyan, called the announcement from Michel as “humiliating”.


  • What’s your take on this latest round of negotiations?
  • Is accepting the use of Aghdam to supply Artsakh a trap?
    • Would the EU welcome such a situation if for instance Moscow completely surrounded Ukraine and prevented the west from supplying Ukraine?
    • Does referring to Lachin as a road indicate Michel’s view of the status of the Lachin corridor and therefore a legitimization of the Azerbaijani checkpoint?

Stepanakert Announces “National Movement”

Meanwhile, Stepanakert is fighting! Despite the brutal complete blockade instituted by the Azerbaijani regime, a new national movement was announced. It kicked off with a huge rally in Stepanakert, as tens of thousands of people flooded the renaissance square in Stepanakert on Friday in response to the call from Artsakh authorities.

The speeches and actions of the protest seemed to be aimed at all international players who have a stake in Artsakh, including the Red Cross, the Russian Peacekeepers, the Armenian government, the Armenian people collectively including the diaspora and of course other major international players. The protesters then set up tents in the Renaissance square and geared up for being there long-term.


  • What was the goal of this protest?

While the protest on Friday was attended widely, even by opposition members in Artsakh, it was apparent that the main driving force for it were political forces associated with Arayik Harutyunyan, whose party is the ruling force in Artsakh. The protest also was welcomed by Ruben Vardanyan. In fact, Vardanyan issued a public statement that most directly accused Armenia’s government, and specifically Nikol Pashinyan for the current situation.

Opposition forces were not visible prominently and some have criticized the rally because there was not enough direct criticism of Pashinyan and Armenia’s policies that have made public statements unequivocally recognizing Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan. Other elements of the opposition criticized that the protest was effectively anti-Russian in nature.

It should be noted that a day before the protest, hero of Artsakh, General Vitaly Balasanyan, who has been constantly vilified in Azerbaijani propaganda, was arrested along with his son by the authorities in Artsakh. He was released today, Monday.


  • What might be behind the arrest of Balasanyan, and is the timing a coincidence?

The Travels of Armen Grigoryan

It has been 10 days since Armen Grigoryan has been in Washington DC for “intense negotiations”. This is a week after Ararat Mirzoyan was there and met with the same officials.

Grigoryan’s formal statements about the meetings say “challenges in the region and the wider region” and “closer U.S.-Armenian cooperation on energy, economy and democracy” were discussed. Jake Sullivan’s office has not commented on the meetings.

Background: Unconfirmed Russian telegram channels report that Washington and Baku have the following “demands” of Armenia:

  1. Sign a peace treaty before the end of 2023, in Washington DC.
  2. Armenia accepts 65,000 Azeri refugees in Syunik province.
  3. Baku will open “some departments” in Syunik to solve security problems for Azerbaijanis who move there.
  4. Armenia will remove the Russian base in Gyumri by 2026, and replace it with NATO training under the Eastern Partnership program.
  5. Armenia will give Azerbaijan the enclaves that existed during the USSR.
  6. Armenia opens the “Zangezur corridor” with international customs organizations.
  7. Nagorno-Karabakh is given up.


  • But aside from these formal boilerplate statements, what can we deduce is really happening in Armenian-American relations? What is Armen Grigoryan discussing in DC?

Meanwhile in Moscow

Zakharova issued a statement:

  • About Armenia’s recognition: “We respect the sovereign decision of the leadership of Armenia, but it has radically altered the fundamental conditions under which the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed the November 9, 2020 statement. It has also changed the situation for the Russian peacekeeping troops stationed in the region.”
  • “We believe that under these conditions, the responsibility for the fate of the Armenian population of Karabakh should not be placed on third countries. The preparation of a peace treaty between Baku and Yerevan should begin immediately, based on the agreements reached earlier,” the statement reads.
  • “We are ready to organize a tripartite meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow in the near future,”


  • Is Russia saying that it can’t guarantee the security of Artsakh because Armenia recognized it as a part of Azerbaijan?

At the same time, Aliyev over the weekend in Brussels sharply criticized Russia for not keeping to the Nov. 9 agreement, and allowing Armenians to send arms to Artsakh.

First, this is either fake news or political jousting. But it seems like both Azerbaijan and Russia are preparing some sort of a status change in Artsakh, as regards to the Russian peacekeepers.


  • How can Moscow retain a peacekeeping force in Artsakh, post 2025?

Economic State in Armenia

On July 5th, Pashinyan gave a Constitution Day address. In it he mentions the health system, pensions, jobs, etc. He said:

According to the Constitution of our country, Armenia is a social state.

Since 2018, the minimum pension has more than doubled, the average pension has increased by 22 percent, and the basic pension has increased by 50 percent. Since 2018, 170,000 jobs have been created in Armenia, the salary fund has more than doubled, the average monthly salary has increased by about 57 percent, the minimum salary has increased by more than 36 percent, and the number of health services provided to citizens by state order has doubled.

He said Armenia is a social state, and Pashinyan says “health services provided to citizens by state order has doubled.” Yet, recent reports indicate that maybe the government is not adequately funding these social services.


  • What is your experience with the system, and is there a systemic underfunding of health services to citizens?


Pashinyan says that pensions have more than doubled, average pension has increased 22% and basic pension has increased 50% - and everything is measured against 2018. The latest pension raises took effect a couple of weeks ago on July 1.

Not everyone shares this optimism. Our calculations show that just in monetary terms, the total inflation from 2018-2022 has been about 23%. That doesn’t include increases in cost of living. For instance, former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan, says that almost all of the growth can be attributed to inflation and cost of living changes.

For reference, the average pension is now 50,000 drams per month. The average salary is 256,000 drams, and the so-called “consumer basket” is 80,000 drams.


  • Are pensioners better off in 2023 than in 2018, what’s the real social story?
    • Have the pensions even been able to keep up with inflation and cost of living changes?
  • Are pensioners living below subsistence level, is there under-nutrition, or poverty in the country?


Pashinyan says since 2018 170,000 jobs have been created, average monthly salaries are 57% higher, and minimum salaries are 36% higher.


  • Do those numbers speak of a widely prosperous society in Armenia today? First of all is that 170K number real, and what kind of jobs are we talking about?
  • Are people truly feeling the prosperity of 57% higher average salaries? Are they feeling richer, and theoretically happier, than in 2018?
  • Armenia’s GDP has nearly doubled since 2018. Is this prosperity fairly distributed across a wide number of industries, demographics and locations?
  • Is the minimum salary (75K) a living wage? Have the poverty levels gone down in Armenia?

The Pashinyan government has consistently favored the IT sector, and disregarded the agricultural sector. This year the IT sector was the beneficiary of extensive tax credits, while Armenian farms have been hung out to dry.


  • Can you explain what the government rationale is, with this strategy? Is the vision that Armenian society will work as technologists in Yerevan highrises and eat cheap food imported from Turkey?

Armenia Economic Indicators

Armenia economic indicators


For reference, the IMF has assessed the outlook for Armenia’s economic growth positively. Same with the World Bank.

USAID stats on the Armenian economy.

September Yerevan Mayoral Elections

In two month’s time, Yerevan will be voting to elect a new mayor. These are indirect elections, people vote for political parties, the parties nominate to form the new city council, and the city council appoints a new mayor.

If you ask me, it’s a travesty that people don’t get to vote and elect who they want for president, or prime minister, or mayor, but that’s what it is.

Anyway, last week we discussed where the parties and their candidates stand per the latest MPG poll results. We’ll put the slide in the show notes, but to summarize the poll:

  • Civil Contract candidate Tigran Avinyan is leading the field with 10.1%
  • Former Civil Contract, and maybe Civil Contract-adjacent Hayk Marutyan has 8.2%.
  • Hayastan Dashinq’s Levon Kocharyan has 5.3%
  • All others are under 5%
  • Nearly 60% are undecided or uninvolved!


  • Does this 60% represent apathy amongst the people, or is it an opportunity for some candidate or another to strike just the right chord with voters?
  • Hayk Marutyan is may be partnering with David Sanasaryan’s also Civil Contract-adjacent “Sovereign Armenia” party. There are also Mané Tandilyan’s “Aprelu Yerkir” and Edmon Marukyan’s “Lousavor Hayastan” (Bright Armenia) in the mix. How likely is an alliance of all these velvet-adjacent parties?
  • Is this race wide open, or will “administrative resources” come in at some point and steal the vote?

Yerevan mayoral elections

Q9: Which party would you vote for in the September Yerevan city council elections?

Estimating the War Dead

It has been nearly 3 years since the signing of the November 9-10 statement that ceased the hostilities in the 44-day war of 2020. The Armenian government has not officially released the specific names of the dead from the war. In fact, we don’t even know the exact identity of the deaths from the mini-war of September 2022.

In the absence of official information, various estimates have been made by academics and analysts. The most recent study, published this week by Ariel Karlinsky from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem & Orsola Torrisi from the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) campus, and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), uses an interesting methodology, focusing on excess deaths reported by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Artsakh.

According to the results of the study, the number of excess deaths of 18-49 year old males in three countries are approximately as follows:

  • Armenia: 2,800
  • Azerbaijan: 3,400
  • Artsakh: 310


  • Why is the Armenian government not releasing the full data?
  • How far off are the numbers from this study?


We continue to remind that if you’re a citizen of Armenia and eligible to vote, then there is a citizen’s initiative that is worth your attention and signature. It’s called HayaQve.

According to organizers, in two weeks, the movement has been able to get 25,000 signatures.

Find out more at:

Topics from the Panelists

  • Hrant: Armavir and other archaeological sites left dilapidated
  • Hovik: Armen Grigoryan’s death in court; Taguhi Tovmasyan dismissed
  • Asbed: Thinking Vardevar, not thinking Artsakh


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

Hrant Mikaelian

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

Hovik Manucharyan

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.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Hovik Manucharyan on the ANN/Groong podcast are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of his employer or any other organization.

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.

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