A Russian Mi-8 transport helicopter has been shot down by Chechen fighters during an army operation near the town of Shatoi, southern Chechnya. Its four crew members and 13 passengers are all suspected killed. Violence is said to have erupted at the site of the crash between Russian forces and insurgents. [AlJazeera, April 27]
April 24 marks the 92nd anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide, and Armenians worldwide commemorated the "First Genocide of the 20th Century" with solemn religious and civil ceremonies. However, little more than a week before the anniversary, the United Nations dismantled an exhibit on the Rwandan genocide and postponed its scheduled opening by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon—in response to objections from the Turkish mission to the exhibit's references to the Armenian genocide, which Turkey denies happened.
A new Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, officially opened on March 19 by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Armenian President Robert Kocharian, is emerging as a source of speculation about regional energy alliances. A trip to Armenia by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili two days after the pipeline's opening has provided fuel for conjecture despite the official line that it was a ski vacation. Saakashvili's spokesmen admit he met with Kocharian and that talks touched on the pipeline.
The construction of a Georgia's second "NATO standard" military base less than 20 miles from Tskhinvali, the capital of breakaway South Ossetia, is being protested by separatist leaders. Ossetian leaders charge that construction of the base near Gori is a sign that Tbilisi is preparing to use force in to reestablish its authority over the territory. Georgian officials deny any belligerent intentions. Georgia's first "NATO standard" base was completed last year in the western town of Senaki—close to Georgia's other separatist enclave, Abkhazia.
A one thousand year-old Armenian church on the island of Akdamar in Lake Van has been renovated and now reopened by Turkish authorities. Though Armenia and Turkey do not maintain regular diplomatic relations, a delegation of Armenian architects and government officials attended the opening ceremony. The renovation of the church is part of an effort to warm ties between the countries still divided over the massacres of Armenians during the final stages of the Ottoman Empire. (BBC, March 29)
The United Nations observer mission in Georgia has opened an investigation into missile attacks in three remote villages near the Russian border March 11, claiming initial evidence suggested that Russian helicopter gunships were involved. The military action damaged several buildings in the Kodori Gorge. Both Russia and the forces of the nearby breakaway region of Abkhazia denied involvement in the attacks. (NYT, March 14)
A disturbing consensus seems to be emerging in Europe that the best reaction to genocide denial is to ban it. In addition to the many European laws against denying the Nazi Holocaust, Bosnia is now considering such a law for its own more recent genocide. And now Switzerland is prosecuting a Turkish writer for denying the 1915 Armenian genocide. From the Turkish daily Hurriyet, March 8:
A glimmer of hope is that the outcry following the slaying of Hrant Dink is coming from Turks as well as Armenians. Perhaps his death will not have been in vain—or will there be an inevitable backlash? From the UK-based Turkish newspaper Londra Toplum Postasi, Jan. 25: