By Emil Danielyan
President Serzh Sarkisian sacked on Friday another top army general who is thought to have backed his main challenger, Levon Ter-Petrosian, in the recent presidential election.
Sarkisian’s office said Lieutenant-General Gurgen (Gagik) Melkonian was dismissed as deputy defense minister but gave no reasons for the move. The presidential decree came three weeks after the sacking of Manvel Grigorian, another general and deputy defense minister presumably sympathetic to Ter-Petrosian.
Ter-Petrosian claimed to have secured the backing of the two men as he began on February 21 a campaign of non-stop rallies against the official results of the disputed election. “Manvel Grigorian and Gagik Melkonian are saying that they will not allow the army to meddle in politics and be used against their people,” Ter-Petrosian told tens of thousands of supporters in Yerevan.
The two generals were conspicuously absent from Sarkisian’s and outgoing President Robert Kocharian’s meeting two days later with the top brass of Armenia’s Armed Forces. Kocharian told the army command that he “will not allow anyone to play a shadowy role” in the post-election developments in Armenia. “No structure can place itself beyond law and engage in illegal activities,” he said in an apparent reference to the Yerkrapah Union of Armenian veterans of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh headed by Grigorian.
Most members of the once influential group, of which Melkonian is also a leading member, backed Ter-Petrosian’s presidential bid and actively participated in his post-election demonstrations. Grigorian is believed to have approved of their stance, even though he has never publicly commented on the presidential race.