Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian visited on Wednesday the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontline east of Nagorno-Karabakh together with the new commander of Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army.
Lieutenant-General Levon Mnatsakanian took over the Karabakh Defense Army in what amounted to a job swap with its previous commander, Lieutenant General Movses Hakobian. Earlier this week, President Serzh Sarkisian appointed Hakobian as deputy chief of staff of Armenia’s armed forces, a position held by Mnatsakanian until now.
Both generals were born in Karabakh in 1965. They commanded Karabakh Armenian units during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan.
Mnatsakanian studied at a Russian military academy for high-ranking officers several years before moving to Yerevan in 2012. Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, announced his latest appointment and introduced him to the Defense Army’s top brass in Stepanakert on Wednesday. Ohanian, who is also a Karabakh Armenian veteran of the war, was present at the ceremony.
Sahakian was quoted by his office as praising Hakobian’s eight-year track record as army commander and describing Mnatsakanian as an experienced and respected officer. But he gave no reasons for their job swap.
Later in the day, Ohanian, Mnatsakanian and Hakobian visited sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” east of Karabakh. A Defense Army statement said they familiarized themselves with recent reinforcements of “the defensive potential” of Karabakh Armenian frontline positions. It gave no further details.
The conflicting parties have reported few deadly truce violations along “the line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border since the beginning of April. Tensions on the frontlines rose dramatically in January, resulting in over two dozen casualties on both sides.
Observers in Armenia link the current relative calm with the European Games in Baku. They say that Azerbaijan has de-escalated the situation in order to ensure that armed incidents do not scare away foreign athletes participating in the games. Accordingly, there are fears that deadly fighting in the conflict zone will again intensify after the multi-sport event in the Azerbaijani capital ends on June 28.