President Serzh Sarkisian dismissed three senior Armenian military officials on Tuesday more than three weeks after the outbreak of heavy fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh that nearly escalated into a full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Sarkisian’s press office gave no reasons for presidential decrees that relieved Deputy Defense Minister Alik Mirzabekian, General Arshak Karapetian, the military intelligence chief, and General Komitas Muradian, the commander of the Armenian army’s communication units, of their duties.
Mirzabekian also headed the Armenian Defense Ministry’s Department on Material-Technical Procurements charged with supplying Armenia’s Armed Forces with weapons and ammunition.
The presidential office could not be reached for comment. The Defense Ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, declined to comment on the sackings.
Koryun Nahapetian, the pro-government chairman of an Armenian parliament committee on defense and security, confirmed that they resulted from “shortcomings” in the Armenian military’s response to the April 2 Azerbaijani offensive in Karabakh. About 80 Armenian soldiers and volunteers were killed during four-day hostilities stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire.
“It is obvious that the four-day war exposed new problems that need to be addressed promptly,” Nahapetian “Also, time is needed for a comprehensive analysis of shortcomings and omissions that exist in our national security system.”
The Azerbaijani assault seems to have taken Armenia’s and Karabakh’s armed forces by surprise. Azerbaijani troops captured several heights at northern and southern sections of the Karabakh “line of contact” but failed to advance farther. According to independent sources in Baku, at least 92 Azerbaijani soldiers, many of them members of special forces, died in action.
The hostilities raised questions about the Armenian army’s apparent lack of prior knowledge of the assault. Critics also suggested that Armenian frontline troops did not have sufficient modern weapons and other military equipment when they came under attack.
Sarkisian insisted on Monday that the Azerbaijani offensive failed because it was aimed at achieving significant territorial gains that would have led to a “military solution” to the Karabakh conflict.” But he admitted that Armenian military intelligence failed to get “precise information” about it beforehand.
“Had we had [such intelligence] the Azerbaijanis would have suffered much greater losses and failed to seize those several meters [of land,]” Sarkisian told the Bloomberg news agency.
Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, called for more sackings. “Many heads must roll now,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).“It’s only natural that such a process has begun.”
Zurabian stressed that the Sarkisian administration must not confine itself to personnel changes within the military. “We need to radically change the nature of our state,” he said. “What we have now is a criminal-oligarchic, corrupt system which has demonstrated its inadequacy in the face of external threats.”