Eight officers have been dismissed and more than a dozen others demoted because of the latest non-combat shootings in the Armenian army that left seven servicemen dead, the Defense Ministry announced over the weekend.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian berated them at an emergency meeting of senior ministry officials and the top army brass that discussed ways of preventing such incidents in the future.
“For you, your officer’s dignity means nothing,” Ohanian raged at military commanders ousted from the Armed Forces. “I think that you have no place in our ranks anymore. Enough is enough,” he said in remarks broadcast by Armenian Public Television late on Friday.
The Defense Ministry did not identify any of those officers. In a written statement issued on Monday, it clarified that they include the commanders, deputy commanders and other senior officers of army units rocked by the shootings. Television images showed that there was one colonel and at least two lieutenant-colonels among them.
According to the ministry statement, 13 other “commanders and service chiefs” were relieved of their duties and will be appointed to lower positions. Another 20 officers got off with formal reprimands, it said.
The punitive measures were triggered by the July 27-28 deadly incidents that occurred at two frontline army detachments. In one of those units stationed in the northern Tavush region, a 30-year-old lieutenant, Artak Nazarian. was found dead in still unclear circumstances. His relatives believe that he was killed by fellow servicemen.
Military investigators say, however, that Nazarian committed suicide after being badly ill-treated by a deputy commander of his battalion and three soldiers. All four men are now under arrest pending investigation.
Nazarian’s death was followed by the fatal shooting of one officer and five soldiers at another unit deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh. Ohanian on Friday confirmed that military investigators believe one of those soldiers, Karo Ayvazian, went on a shooting spree and killed himself after a bitter dispute with the officer.
According to the Defense Ministry, Ohanian told participants of Friday’s meeting to “meticulously analyze what happened” and “take steps to strengthen discipline in the troops.” The ministry said on Saturday that the deputy chief of the army’s General Staff, Major-General Valeri Grigorian, and other staff officers then presented the results of an “internal inquiry” conducted by them.
Also during the meeting, two men apparently arrested in connection with other deadly incidents were brought in and paraded before participants. The Public Television report described one of them as a conscript who shot one of his officers and the other as an officer who beat to death a sergeant. “What are you going to tell his parents?” a furious Ohanian asked the officer.
The latest shootings are widely regarded as being the result of chronic abuse, corruption and mismanagement within Armenia’s Armed Forces. They have fuelled calls by some civic activists, opposition politicians and other government critics for Ohanian’s resignation.
Ohanian blamed the problem on “unscrupulous, impudent, mean and criminal” officers and a lack of oversight from their commanders. He said the commanders must be “strict” and at the same time “caring, just and respectful” towards their subordinates.