By Emil Danielyan
Lieutenant-General Seyran Ohanian, commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian army, confirmed on Wednesday reports that he will be appointed as the new chief of staff of Armenia’s Armed Forces.
“Yes, I have received an offer to be appointed as chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff and have already accepted it,” Ohanian was reported to have told a news conference in Stepanakert.
The top military position has been vacant since its previous longtime holder, Colonel-General Mikael Harutiunian, was named Armenia’s defense minister by President Robert Kocharian on April 24. Harutiunian was also formally demobilized from the military, suggesting that he will likely occupy the post as a civilian in a new government to be formed after the May 12 parliamentary elections.
Incidentally, Harutiunian visited Stepanakert late last week to meet with Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian, Ohanian and other local officials.
Ohanian would not specify when he will move to Yerevan. A spokesman for the Karabakh army told RFE/RL that Kocharian has not signed a relevant decree yet. Reports in the Armenian press have said the appointment will be formalized immediately after the elections.
Ohanian, 44, is a career army officer who served in the Soviet military before joining Karabakh’s newly formed army and playing a major role in its successful 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. He became the army’s chief of staff in February 1993, five months after being seriously wounded in action and having one of his legs amputated as a result. The Armenian-controlled territory was governed at the time by Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian, Armenia’s recently appointed prime minister.
Like Kocharian and Sarkisian, Ohanian is a native of Karabakh. He has been the commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army since his controversial predecessor Samvel Babayan’s defeat in a bitter power struggle with Ghukasian in late 1999.