By Emil Danielyan
The longtime commander of Armenian border guard troops, Major-General Levon Stepanian was sacked by President Robert Kocharian on Tuesday following the arrest of his deputy on corruption charges.
Military prosecutors and the National Security Service, the former Soviet-era KGB which oversees the border guards, said Colonel Vahan Mkhitarian is suspected of “large-scale bribery” and will face criminal prosecution. They also claimed to have found three assault rifles illegally kept in Mkhitarian’s office and apartment. Both agencies refused Tuesday to divulge further details of the case.
The arrested official is the brother of Mekhak Mkhitarian, a parliament deputy from the governing Orinats Yerkir party.
Although there was no official explanation for Stepanian’s sacking, it is clearly linked to the criminal proceedings against Mkhitarian. But it is not yet known whether the general is also suspected of engaging in illegal practices.
A former Soviet army officer, Stepanian has been the commander of Armenia’s lightly armed border guard forces ever since their creation in 1992. Their main focus has been Armenia’s border with Turkey and Iran which is also guarded by Russian border guards.
In a separate presidential decree, Stepanian was replaced by Vyacheslav Voskanian. His previous place of work and other professional background was not immediately available.