Armenia’s government has denied claims by Samvel Babayan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s former top military commander, that it did not sufficiently reinforce the Armenian military in the years leading up to last month’s heavy fighting with Azerbaijani troops.
Babayan, who headed the Karabakh Armenian army from 1993-1999, said on Thursday that the government had grown complacent about Azerbaijan’s massive military build-up since 2011. “Unfortunately, unlike in Azerbaijan, the issue of security was not high on the agenda of Armenia’s political elite until the fierce hostilities in April,” claimed the controversial general.
Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian dismissed the criticism on Friday. “I don’t pay attention to various personal views,” he told reporters. “I think that during all these years we have done serious work on strengthening and modernizing our army.”
Like Babayan, Ohanian is a native of Karabakh who commanded Karabakh Armenian army units during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. Ohanian succeeded Babayan as the army’s commander in 1999.
The spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Eduard Sharmazanov, also brushed aside Babayan’s claims late on Thursday. He argued that the Azerbaijani army failed to make major territorial gains and suffered many casualties during the April 2-5 hostilities along the Karabakh “line of contact.”
“With all due respect for the distinguished gentleman’s views and his right to express them, I think that the reality is different,” said Sharmazanov.
Babayan made the comments shortly after returning to Armenian from self-imposed exile in Russia. He said he will proceed to Karabakh in the coming days but did not specify whether he will stay there to resume his political activities or military service.
“Mr. Babayan has not asked the [Karabakh] Defense Army to readmit him,” Sharmazanov told a news conference.
Ohanian, for his part, would not be drawn on the possibility of Babayan’s reappointment to key military positions. “It’s not up to me to decide,” the minister said. “As far as military service is concerned, I can’t tell you anything because all of our positions are filled now and the military personnel and generals properly accomplish their tasks.”