“Hayots Ashkhar” takes an ironic look at U.S. praise of Georgia’s progress in democratic reforms, reporting violations of “the elementary rights” of the country’s Armenian minority ahead of President Bush’s visit to Tbilisi. “Today they are fruitlessly fighting to retain at least a few of the dozens of churches and monasteries build by them in Georgia, which is considered by the U.S. president a symbol of freedom in the South Caucasus,” writes the paper. It alleges that Georgian security forces have unleashed indiscriminate violence against the mostly Armenian residents of Georgia’s Tsalka district.
“Iravunk” says Washington will use Bush visit to Georgia to clinch additional Armenian concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh and at the same time “work” with the Armenian opposition through U.S. non-governmental organizations. The paper also claims that U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans is overtly supporting Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s candidacy for the next presidential election. It points to Friday’s official opening of the new U.S. embassy in Yerevan which had an “absolutely pro-government character.” “Only [Armenian] government representatives and mostly those media outlets that have a pro-government stance were invited [to the ceremony]. It is thus evident that Ambassador Evans is demonstratively exposing his sympathy for the authorities, something which can not fail to arouse the discontent of an increasingly radical public.” Russia has similarly alienated many Armenians by supporting Kocharian, according to “Iravunk.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” recalls that Czech Prime Minister Gross was forced to stand down last month because he failed to clearly explain who financed the purchase of his $180,000 apartment in Prague. The paper wonders if Armenians can put similar questions to their leaders, cause a scandal and then avoid getting “punched in the face.” “Oh my God: 180,000 dollars. By our standards, that is simply a pre-payment [for real property].”
“Iravunk” pours scorn on Serzh Sarkisian’s brother Aleksandr for denying the existence of his “enormous businesses and property.” “After hearing all of this, one is left to feel sorry, with tears in the eyes, for the oligarch who seems to have the biggest and sharpest sword and to a priori accept that the property belonging to other oligarchs is hardly different from chicken coops,” the paper notes.
“We imitate having a state,” a senior member of former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party is quoted by “Hayots Ashkhar” as saying recently. “Yet I am deeply convinced that Armenia has become a geographical concept and an object of poetry,” Hrach Hakobian said. “Imitation is not always an unequivocally bad thing,” retorts the paper. “For example, people in America have phony politesse on their faces, while those in Armenia [show] candid hatred. Which is more preferable?”