‘No to Plunder’ Organizers Say An Audit Does Not Fulfill Their Demands

"No to Plunder" movement protesters continued their sit-in for a fifth day
"No to Plunder" movement protesters continued their sit-in for a fifth day

“No to Plunder” movement protesters continued their sit-in for a fifth day

YEREVAN—As protests headed by the “No to Plunder” movement on Baghramyan Avenue continued into its fifth day, President Serzh Sarkisian’s office stated that it would support an audit of the country’s Public Services Regulatory Commission, a move that movement organizers said did not fulfill their demand of reversing the decision to hike energy rate.

After meeting with Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov about the energy issue on Friday. Sarkisian’s office issued a statement in which Sarkisian was quoted as also stressing the importance of a “meticulous audit” involving representatives of Armenian civil society.

Sarkisian and Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian discussed on Friday with Sokolov the energy issue, after which it was announced that a Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission economic cooperation will organize an independent audit of the under-fire power distribution network.

Sokolov’s visit, which began Thursday, followed concerns expressed by Moscow in connection with the ongoing nonstop protests against a more than 17 percent rise in electricity prices in Armenia. A senior Russian diplomat on Wednesday urged the Armenian government to work out a “compromise solution” with the protesters camped out on Baghramyan Avenue, blocks away from the presidential offices.

Sokolov confirmed to reporters that the energy tariff issue was discussed during meetings in Yerevan.

“Of course it [energy rate hike] was. We discussed all issues,” said Sokolov.

Later on Friday, the Armenian government’s press office reported that Deputy Prime Minister Vache Gabrielian and Energy Minister Yervand Zakharian held a “discussion” with Sokolov that focused on “Russian-Armenian cooperation in the area of energy,” reported RFE/RL.

A statement by the office said they specifically discussed “the situation that has arisen around the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA),” the national power distribution network belonging to Inter RAO, a Russian energy corporation. It gave no other details.

Sokolov met with President Sarkisian afterwards, reportedly telling him that the Russian-Armenian commission decided to initiate an audit of the ENA that will involve representatives of “all interested parties.” The company’s books will be inspected in a transparent manner, he said, according to a statement by Sarkisian’s office.

Inter RAO is a successor to Russia’s now defunct Unified Energy Systems conglomerate that bought the ENA in 2006. In the last few years the ENA has posted growing losses, which many in Armenia believe blame on poor management.

The company’s outstanding debts totaling over $225 million are a key reason why Armenian regulators last week raised the ENA tariffs for a third time in two years. The price hike infuriated many Armenians feeling that they are forced to pay for corruption and inefficiency within the ENA.

The Armenian press reported in the months leading up to the price hike that Inter RAO plans to sell its loss-making Armenian subsidiary. Energy Minister Zakharian confirmed those reports last month. He also did not deny reports that the Tashir Group of Samvel Karapetian, an Armenian-born Russian billionaire, is interested in acquiring the ENA.

Karapetian has so far made ambiguous statements to that effect through his Yerevan-based brother Karen, a parliament deputy and former chief of President Sarkisian’s staff.

Some Armenian observers have suggested that a new ENA owner might be willing to abandon the price rise and thus meet the key demand of the Yerevan protesters. Abrahamian on Thursday defended the unpopular measure.

There have also been calls in Armenia for Inter RAO to inject more cash into the ENA and restructure the company, instead of trying to sort out its financial troubles at the expense of Armenian consumers. The Russian group, which also owns Armenia’s largest thermal power plant, posted $13.4 billion in operating revenue last year.

The Russian calls for Armenian government concessions to the protesters seems to reflect fears in Moscow that the unrest could grow into the kind of popular revolt that toppled Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. Some pro-government Russian politicians and media have alleged that Western powers orchestrated the ongoing protests to install a pro-Western regime in Yerevan. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin disputed these allegations on Wednesday.

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6 Comments

  1. John Evans said:

    The Public Services Regulatory Commission is not the problem and does not need an audit. The problem is management of ENA, and other accumulated encroachments on the public interest.

  2. State-Of-Emergency said:

    Who needs the Turks. Armenians are their own enemies. Of course, all stemming from ignorance and greed. We’ll be luck to survive our own onslaught by 2115.

  3. Mkhitar Yepremyan said:

    Can the Russian government officials convince Serzh Sarkissian and his stooges Hovik Abrahamian, Vladimir Gasparian to stop looting the Armenian Nation for the good of all.
    A crook president is no good for anybody. Serzh Sarkissian and his gang have so much money looted from the Armenian Nation over the years that they can easily payoff all of Armenia’s National debt, pay off all the losses of the energy network, purcase all energy networks of Armenia and nationilize those, build and give free housing to all homeless families who have survived the Armenian earthquake, build factories all over Armenia and Artsakh, revive the Armenian economy, create jobs for all young and old, and still have billions of looted money in their fat bank accounts.
    Mr. Serzh Sarkissian, I have a simple question to ask you sincerely and that is: HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU NEED TO LIVE YOUR LIFE? DO YOU WISH TO BE REMEMBERED IN THE ARMENIAN HISTORY AS ONE WHO BUILT AND HELPED OR ONE
    WHO LOOTED AND IS REMEMBERED AS TALANCHI? LEVON TER PETROSSIAN DESTROYED ARMENIA’S INDUSTRIAL INFRASTRUCTURE. ROBERT KOCHARIAN CAME AND LOOTED LIKE YOU.
    HOW CAN YOU, SERZH SARKISSIAN, HAVE A GOOD SLEEP WHEN HUNDRED’S OF FAMILIES ARE STILL LIVING IN DOMIGS? HOW CAN YOU BE PROUD OF YOUR LEADERSHIP WHEN THERE IS WIDE SPREAD UNEMPLOYMENT IN ARMENIA? HOW CAN YOU BE PROUD OF YOURSELF WHEN ARMENIANS ARE LEAVING THEIR BELOVED HOMELAND TO FIND SHELTER IN THESE UNKNOWN FOREIGN LANDS AND TO BE ASSIMILATED? YOU CAN NOT COMBAT CORRUPTION WHEN YOU YOURSELF ARE THE GANG LEADER OF THESE CORRUPT OLIGARKS!
    Mr. Serzh Sarkissian, shape up, clean up and get your house in order. You are here to listen to the demands of your people. You are here to serve your people and nothing else. Shape up soon and very soon or get out of Bagramian 26. The time is ticking……

  4. Raffi said:

    Armenia’s enemies in action, Free interprise system has it’s own flows, poor management in a private company is not enough reason to take the roads

  5. Hamik Gregory said:

    Armenians have to be careful not to repeat Ukrainian experience. I another word, for her population to continuously demonstrate until Armenia falls apart like Ukrainian! It will happen because just like Kiev, democracy is not deeply understood and cherished in Armenia.

  6. GB said:

    These people are not politicians all they want to stop systematic corruption. This growing uncontrolled deadly cancerous disease, destroying Armenian way of life in Armenia!

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