The Armenian military on Monday confirmed an ongoing nationwide call-up of reservists but insisted that it does not signify a growing likelihood of renewed war with Azerbaijan.
Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian, the spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry, told RFE/RL that men across Armenia aged up to 50 are being summoned by military commissariats to take part in military exercises. He said they spend up to a week in military camps refreshing and improving their combat skills.
Shahsvuvarian downplayed the significance of such drills, saying that the Armenian Armed Forces have always called up reservists to verify their availability and make sure that “every duty-bound Armenian man knows his place and function in the military” in case of a large-scale armed conflict.
The latest call-up comes amid rumors, stoked by some media, that the army has been put on high alert in anticipation of an Azerbaijani offensive. The Defense Ministry has categorically denied those reports.
A senior Nagorno-Karabakh security official, Colonel Levon Chalian, on Monday dismissed as a “provocation” pro-opposition media claims that the authorities in Stepanakert have banned local male residents from leaving the territory. “We are performing our duties as usual,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “There are no restrictive instructions.”
Shahsuvarian, for his part, insisted that recent deadly skirmishes on the main Armenian-Azerbaijani frontline east of Karabakh and Armenia’s heavily fortified border with Azerbaijan do not indicate an overall weakening of the ceasefire regime or an increased likelihood of another war.
“We have the same stable situation that has existed during all these years,” he said. “It would be wrong to say that such incidents have increased or that something has changed on the frontline.” Chances of an all-out Armenian-Azerbaijani war are minimal at the moment, he added.
Shahsuvarian stressed at the same time that the Armenian military is taking Azerbaijani threats to solve the Karabakh conflict by force seriously. “We have been reinforcing our frontline fortifications,” he said. “We now have several lines of defense there. We are raising soldiers’ spirits, combat-readiness and so on.
“We also keep the military hardware at the ready. It’s almost impossible today to find a single faulty unit of hardware at any military base.”
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian likewise warned Azerbaijan recently against attempting to win back Nagorno-Karabakh by force, saying that Armenian troops have significantly beefed up defense fortifications around the disputed territory and are prepared for another war.