Yerevan court issues seizure of 46 million EUR from former Syunik Governor
On August 3, a Yerevan court signed off on a request filed by Armenia’s Prosecutor General’s Office to confiscate 19.1 billion AMD (46,8 million EUR) worth of property and assets of illegal origin from former Syunik Provincial Governor Surik Khachatryan and five his associates.
The assets in question consist of a private house in Yerevan, an apartment, a structure in Goris, three vehicles, the balance of illegal funds in bank accounts and investments transferred to an offshore organization.
The former governor was indicted in 2019 for a number of crimes, including complicity in large-scale embezzlement and official forgery. Khachatryan, a controversial figure and member of the Republican Party of Armenia who resigned as Syunik governor in 2013 because of public pressure resulting from a shooting incident near his Goris home, was reappointed governor in September 2014 by then Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan. He was sacked as governor two years later, writes Hetq.am.
Gates of Syunik, Armenia;Photo: Dmytro Stoliarenko/Shutterstock
Yerevan railway station;Photo:Damian Pankowiec/Shutterstock
Azerbaijan attacked Armenia and seized new territories
During its assault on Armenia on September 13-14, Azerbaijan seized another approximately 10 square kilometres of Armenian territory. Hostilities claimed the lives of 135 Armenians, including civilians, and at least 77 members of the Azerbaijani army.
Armenia’s defence ministry reported attacks, starting around midnight on September 13, targeting cities all along the southern part of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan, including Vardenis, Sotk, Artanish, Ishkhanasar, Jermuk, Goris and Kapan.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said it was merely carrying out “local countermeasures” in response to “the large-scale provocation” from Armenia: “News about the invasion of Azerbaijan into the territory of Armenia, disseminated in the Armenian media and the segment of social networks, is nothing but nonsense.”
On September 14, the fighting continued, albeit at a lower intensity, as Armenia rushed to seek international support against Azerbaijani attacks. “Today, starting at 8:00, the enemy renewed its aggressive acts by using artillery and high-calibre weaponry,” Armenia’s Ministry of Defense said in a September 14 statement. “The Armenian Armed forces are taking adequate retaliatory measures, continuing to fulfil their military duties fully.” By 12:00, the intensity of the attacks had “significantly weakened,” it said. By the evening, the ministry reported that the situation on the border “remained tense.” Azerbaijan continued to accuse Armenia of provoking the attacks and argue that it was the side taking retaliatory measures.
According to official information, 135 Armenian soldiers and 77 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in the fighting. Armenia reported that Azerbaijan had captured an additional 10 square kilometres of Armenian territory in the fighting. It had reported 41 square kilometres being occupied during a previous Azerbaijani incursion in May 2021. More than 2,500 civilians had been displaced from border communities as a result of the violence, Armenian officials said.
Some Armenian villages along the border have been evacuated. “The entire village is being bombed; we can’t even evacuate the children, we managed to evacuate only part of them,” the former community leader of Geghamasar, a village in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province, told RFE/RL. “The fire is very intense in the area; the roads are also under shelling, we are hiding.”
Armenia appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for military support, claiming it was under attack by another country. The CSTO provided only the promise to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Armenia, suggesting a diminished willingness of Russia to get involved in the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict and questioning the viability of the whole defensive pact itself. This caused a wave of discontent in Armenian society, where calls are being heard more and more often for the country to leave the Russian-led alliance.
As Eurasianet writes, it remains unclear what Baku seeks to achieve strategically by expanding its theatre of operations, but previous escalations generally have been aimed at forcing Armenia into diplomatic concessions.
In a speech to parliament on the afternoon of September 14, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made perhaps his most explicit allusion yet to the possibility that Armenia may formally cede control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the territory at the root of the conflict between the two sides. “We want to sign a paper, as a result of which we will be criticised, scolded, called traitors, even the people may decide to remove us from power. But we will be grateful if, as a result of this, Armenia receives lasting peace and security on an area of 29,800 square kilometres,” he said. “I made a clear decision. I don’t care what happens to me. I care what happens to the Republic of Armenia.” His speech caused a shock in part of Armenian society leading to rallies in the centre of Yerevan.
With the latest aggression, Azerbaijan may also try to solve the issue of the Zangezur corridor on its terms. The road project has become one of the most contentious issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan since their war in 2020, with Baku regularly accusing Armenia of shirking its obligations to set up the transportation route, which would connect Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan with the rest of the country, through southern Armenia. Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has even threatened that if Armenia doesn’t give Baku what it wants, Azerbaijan will take the land for the corridor by force.
Azerbaijan argues that the route should allow Azerbaijani vehicles to cross Armenian territory without being subject to customs checks from the Armenian side. That would make it comparable in status to the Lachin Corridor, the road connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh through Azerbaijani territory over which Azerbaijan exercises no control.
But Armenia rejects the prospect of a “Zangezur Corridor” over which it has no jurisdiction, fearing that it would lose control over its southern border, its only outlet to Iran.
“The wording about the so-called corridor is unacceptable for us, and this is a red line for us because in our region, according to the trilateral statement, we have one corridor, and this is the Lachin corridor,” Pashinyan said in an interview with Al Jazeera on already on June 14.