EXPLOSION IN MOSCOW: Two Armenian citizens died and two were wounded in the explosion in the Moscow Metro on February 6 that killed 39 people and injured 124. The Armenian Embassy in Moscow helped to organize the arrival of relatives of the deceased and assisted with the return of the bodies to the republic.
Authorities in Moscow have blamed Chechen nationalists for the terrorist attack.
SITE FOR YOUNGEST: Armenian children henceforth will have a chance to read Armenian folk tales, poems, and fables on the internet site www.mankutyanmolorak.com, A1plus reported February 6.
Works by Hovhanes Tumanyan, Ghazaros Aghayan, Mkhitar Gosh, and others are represented there. The project authors say such sites are in high demand especially in Diaspora.
| Keeping peace in
ARMY DEBUT: A platoon of 34 Armenian servicemen left February 12 for the region of Kosovo in the first-ever Armenian peace-keeping mission abroad, Armenpress reported.
The platoon serving on a contract basis is part of a special Armenian peace-keeping battalion that has been trained, equipped and financed by Greece . They will stay in Kosovo for six weeks under the command of a Greek army battalion deployed in Kosovo. Currently Armenian authorities are negotiating with their US counterparts on sending a platoon of Armenian doctors, drivers and sappers to Iraq.
VIRTUAL KARABAKH: The presentation of a CD on Nagorno Karabakh took place in Karabagh's Foreign Ministry, Artsakh weekly reported February 9.
The disc presents information on the economy, history, social and cultural life of the country and on the peace process. Issued with 3,000 copies in English, the discs will be provided to analytical centers and international organizations dealing with the Karabakh conflict.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Serzh Sargsyan praised the young president of Azerbaijan " for being against a hasty settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Armenpress reported.
"I'm no advocate of a hasty solution to this question," Azerbaijan 's Ilham Aliyev said last weekend upon returning from Moscow. Sargsyan responded to journalists: Judging by what Ilham Aliyev said, no speedy resolution of the conflict is expected.
STREET TRADE: Mini-markets will be created in Yerevan for regulation of street trade, the Yerevan municipality announced February 9.
Arka agency reported that the markets will be created by April 10 in all Yerevan districts. The city administration will provide special territories as trade spots. Today Yerevan has about 1,300 open trade spots, some of which work illegally.
FILM ON CHAMPIONS: Four Armenian sport journalists are completing a documentary film about 13 Armenians who have become Olympic champions, Armenpress reported February 9.
The heroes of the film include gymnasts Hrant Shahinyan, Albert Azaryan, boxer Vladimir Yengibaryan, and weight-lifter Yuri Vardanyan, who all won Olympic gold medals for Armenia .
DISPUTED OMBUDSMEN: Larissa Alaverdyan, who was named by President Robert Kocharyan as Armenia 's first-ever ombudsman, believes that the new institution will help to harmonize relations between the authorities and citizens, Armenpress reported February 9.
Opposition parties have expressed dissatisfaction with her appointment, arguing that a presidentially appointed human rights protector would not dare to challenge government actions infringing on citizens' rights.
INDUSTRIAL GROWTH: According to data for 2003, Armenia was among the top three for economic growth among countries of the Commonwealth of Independent Sates (CIS), PanARMENIAN.Net reported February 10.
The CIS Statistical Committee says Armenia 's industrial production increased by 14.9% last year, bettered only by Kyrgyzstan (17%) and Ukraine (15.8%).
PREVENTING DISEASE: Armenian authorities have temporarily suspended imports of poultry, eggs and animal fat from China , Thailand and other Asian countries as a precaution against an outbreak of bird flu, Armenpress reported February 11.
The officials said that Armenia has been immune so far from the disease, known also as avian influenza, that has already killed dozens of people in the Asian countries.
ARMENTELLING?: The New Democracy party in Greece intends, if it comes to power, to sell 35% of OTE shares belonging to the Greek government and 90% of the shares of ArmenTel Armenian-Greek Company, a source in OTE told Arminfo agency.
New Democracy, which has a chance to win a majority of votes at the parliamentary elections in April, supports privatization of most of the communication companies. According to the source, OTE does not rule out that TurkCell Turkish Company may appear among the bidders for ArmenTel's stocks.
EDUCATION REFORM: Armenian Education and Science Ministry has proposed a new school system which will mean that children study for 12 years instead of the present 10, A1plus reported February 11.
Children will be required to start at age 6. Primary school will last for four years, the middle-school study will last five years and the final stage of secondary education will take three years. The ministry also proposes a 10-point grading system for routine schoolwork to replace the present five levels.
POLITICAL PREDICTION: The chairman of the recently established Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party, Aram Karapetyan, predicted the imminent downfall of Armenia 's present leadership. He told journalists that his party is starting preparations for extraordinary presidential elections as "the current tendencies will eventually transform into a change of power", RFE/RL reported February 11.
Karapetyan who finished fourth in last year's presidential elections urged Kocharyan to follow the example of his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosyan and quit before a destabilization of the political situation.
MULTI-NATIONAL RUSSIA: According to the pan-Russian census Armenians form 0.8 percent of its population, thus making 1.3 million of the overall 145.2 million residents, Azg daily reported February 12.
The number of Azeris in Russia increased to 620,000 in 2002, from 340,000 in 1989. The number of Jews in Russia more than halved from 540,000 to 230,000.