Sunday, September 05, 2004


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Armenian Version:

1 September 2004

Thugs beat up journalists, with the connivance of parliament members

On August 24, 2003 , Armenian journalists were physically attacked once again. This time, in Tsakhkadzor, Gagik Stepanyan, a bodyguard of parliament member Levon Sargisyan, beat photojournalist Mkhitar Khachatryan of the news agency PhotoLur and reporter Anna Israelyan from the newspaper Aravot.

Covered in forests, Tsakhkadzor is a resort area famous since Soviet times. Many USSR sports teams used to train here, but today Tsakhkadzor is better known as a vacation spot favored by President Robert Kocharyan, and, in direct connection, the place where oligarchs and government officials build private getaways. Since there is no room in the town itself, they cut down forests and fence in land for their mansions.

Stepanyan and Israelyan were putting together material on these mansions when they were attacked by several shaved-headed thugs, Stepanyan among them. His boss, MP Levon Sargisyan, is known to the public as "Flour Mill Lyov". A member of Serge Sargisyan's circle, Sargisyan is known as an active participant in and big contributor to Robert Kocharyan's election campaign.

His companies import and produce flour, and the Ministry of Defense buys flour for the Army exclusively from him. Thus, he is unlikely to ever have trouble selling his product, as long as Serge Sargisyan is minister of defense.

Interestingly, when on April 5, 2004 , journalists covering an opposition rally near the Nairi Cinema were beaten up, "Flour Mill Lyov" happened to be at the nearby Oscar Café. His bodyguards were among the perpetrators of the violence. It looks like he was directing their actions from a short distance away.

The other thugs who attacked the journalists on April 5 th were bodyguards of MP Gagik Tsarukyan. Tsarukyan, who is known by the name "Dodi (Stupid) Gago", denied that these men worked for him. But the fact is that until April 5 th they worked as his bodyguards. Tsarukyan is a member of Robert Kocharyan's inner circle and one of the richest businessmen in Armenia. (Of course, on paper, his companies are unprofitable). This oligarch cut down a huge section of the forest in Tsakhkadzor to built private houses and cottages.

On August 27, 2004 the Office of the Prosecutor General of Armenia announced that criminal proceedings had been instituted regarding the violence against journalists.

On August 28th a number of media outlets organized a joint protest in which ninety journalists went to Tsakhkadzor in nineteen cars. They drove around the town taking pictures of the forests that have been cut down and the private houses of various government officials and businessmen.

Staring today, we will publish the names of the owners of the houses built in the green areas of Tsakhkadzor.

The journalists' first stop was the home, or as a sign at the entrance states, "recreation area" of the president of the company Multi Group and member of parliament, Gagik Tsarukyan. Tsarukyan first purchased the Tereshkova Camp for Children, two buildings on one hectare of land. Subsequently, his territory was expanded to 20 hectares, and a section of the forest was destroyed and 21 cottages built. According to the mayor of Tsakhkadzor, Garun Mirzoyan, "There will be 26 cottages here, according to the design."

Some of these cottages and trees are shown in the pictures.

But that's not all.

Next to this plot, Tsarukyan has built two huge mansions.

Edik Baghdasaryan

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