Sergei Melkonian - Iran President and FM Killed in Helicopter Crash | Bagrat Srbazan Leads Mass Protests in Armenia | Armenian Russian Relations | Ep 333 - May 26, 2024 [EP333]

Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Category: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia | Series: wir



  • Iran President and FM Killed in Helicopter Crash
  • Bagrat Srbazan Leads Mass Protests in Armenia
  • Armenian Russian Relations

Episode 333 | Recorded: May 27, 2024

Show Notes

Topics This Week

Iran President and FM Killed in Helicopter Crash

On Sunday May 19, Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi, foreign minister Amir Hussein Abdollahian and 7 other staff members perished in a helicopter crash near Iran’s border with Azerbaijan. They were returning from inaugurating a dam on the Arax river with Ilham Aliyev.

There was a worldwide outpouring of condolences from the UN and most countries around the world on the deaths of the Iranian leaders.

Reportedly President Raisi was going to visit Armenia on May 19, but that was postponed. Raisi and Abdollahian were leading architects of Iran’s policies and red lines towards Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as Iran’s relations with Russia.

Iran had a clear succession plan, and the acting president and foreign minister were appointed immediately.

On Friday Iran’s military reported in its preliminary investigation into the crash that no foul play was evident in the accident.


  • On June 28 Iran will hold presidential elections. Can you discuss Iran’s internal dynamics in this presidential race? Could there be changes to Iran’s policies and red lines regarding Armenia? Can Armenia do anything during the coming month to improve outcomes for itself?
  • Could there be changes to Iran’s policies towards INSTC, which enables Armenia’s relations with India?

Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei is 85, so in addition to the presidential elections, there has been talk about the Supreme Leader’s succession plan, because President Raisi was considered a leading candidate to succeed him.


  • Is Khamenei’s succession imminent? Could it lead to a dramatic shift in Iran’s foreign policies, be it towards the Middle East, the South Caucasus, Russia, the West, the JCPOA, etc?

Bagrat Srbazan Leads Mass Protests

Huge Crowds Amidst Repressions and Official Handover of Land

Yesterday (Sunday May 26), Bagrat Srbazan commenced a new rally and similar to May 9, tens of thousands gathered. In his address, he took direct aim at Pashinyan and his government, calling for their resignation. The movement has also chosen Bagrat Srbazan as its PM nominee, and he has requested from the Catholicos to freeze his position as a Primate of the Tavush Diocese, in order to take part in this movement. To be clear he still remains a clergy of the Armenian Church, except that he doesn’t hold the primate position.

The movement started civil disobedience and the government is using increasingly heavier tactics to disperse the crowds, arresting hundreds of people. Just today, Monday May 27, they arrested at least 285 people. There are video clips online how the police brutally beat protesters, including members of parliament. Despite parliamentary immunity, one member of parliament, Ashot Simonyan, was also taken into custody.

He was released soon thereafter but the videos of him being surrounded by tens of “red berets” who deliver blows to him mercilessly.


  • Where do you see the movement heading from here? We know that there were some issues, including a potential constitutional problem since he has dual Armenia-Canada citizenship. Do you think that choosing Bagrat Srbazan as PM nominee was the right move?
  • How should the movement achieve its goals, such as regime change?
  • In addition to the current government, are there technical or constitutional hurdles that need to be overcome for Bagrat Srbazan to become PM?

Land Handover

Despite the protests, last week Azerbaijan took control of the border areas that Pashinyan conceded unilaterally. Azerbaijan did not return any of the land that was considered Armenian on the very maps that the two sides were referring to.

Bagrat Srbazan’s Tavush for the Homeland movement protested these concessions vigorously throughout May, but were not able to stop the government from proceeding.

On Thursday Pashinyan gave another rambling address to the nation, justifying his small vision of our nation.


  • Since the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks basically appear to be step-by-step capitulations to Aliyev’s demands, what comes next after the Tavush giveaways?

Political Prisoners & Repression

  • 3 mayors of Artsakh arrested
  • People close to Bagrat Srbazan arrested
  • Narek Samsonyan and Vazgen Saghatelyan released on bail but their free speech rights are curtailed
    • They can’t host their podcast
    • They can’t be guests on their own podcast
    • They can’t host any other podcast

Armenian Russian Relations

Armenia’s relations with Russia and the CSTO continued their downfall this week. In the past month there’s been a flurry of bilateral summits: Aliyev was in Moscow, then Pashinyan visited Moscow, then Lukashenko was in Baku a week ago, and finally this past Thursday Putin was in Minsk for an unannounced visit.

While in Azerbaijan, Aliyev took Lukashenko to occupied Artsakh where the latter lavished him with praise, and called the 44-day war Azerbaijan’s “war of liberation”. Lukashenko also “revealed” that there is a “plan for the Caucasus” which he has discussed with Putin.

When asked about this on Wednesday, Pashinyan made a sensational announcement, that two CSTO countries, which he refused to name, conspired with Azerbaijan against Armenia, in preparation for the 2020 war.

On Friday, Russia recalled its ambassador from Armenia, although it wasn’t clear if it was related to the announcement. \


  • Let’s begin with the last news. Why did Russia recall its ambassador?
  • Security issues were on the Putin-Aliyev summit agenda in Moscow, but not on Pashinyan’s. How are Russia’s security relations with the South Caucasus evolving?
  • In Moscow, Pashinyan requested that Russian border guards be removed from Armenia, and Putin agreed. Did he ask for removal from ALL borders?
  • How will this affect Armenia’s security? Can Armenia defend its own borders?

Alright, let’s wrap up our topics here. I’d like to ask each of you if there’s been something on your mind this past week that you want to talk about.


That’s our Week in Review, we hope you found it 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.


Sergei Melkonian

Sergei Melkonian

Dr. Sergei Melkonian is an Academic Director at the Armenian Research Foundation. He served as assistant to President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, on Russia and Middle East politics. Sergei is currently a Research Fellow at APRI Armenia and the Institute of Oriental Studies, and also Assistant Professor at Yerevan State University and the Russian-Armenian University. He is a co-founder of the Armenian Project NGO.


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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