By Emil Danielyan
Lieutenant-General Seyran Ohanian, the commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s army, on Friday admitted taking part in the beating of a local opposition activist, saying that he could not “restrain” himself after hearing “offensive statements” by his former subordinate.
Pavel Manukian, a prominent war veteran affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), was hospitalized with severe injuries after being summoned to the Defense Ministry in Stepanakert on June 21. Manukian insists that he was beaten up Ohanian and other generals furious with his harsh attacks on the top brass of the Karabakh army. He voiced them during last month’s parliamentary election campaign in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Ohanian stopped short of denying Manukian’s allegations in a written statement sent to Karabakh and Armenian media. “There are values that can not be desecrated,” he said. “Nobody has such right, especially someone who is well aware of details of his comrades-in-arms’ combat background.”
“As an Armenian, as an Armenian soldier and as someone who bears the price of our Victory on his skin, I could not restrain myself when an attempt was made to slander our army and its command and my comrades-in-arms,” he added.
Manukian, who unsuccessfully ran for parliament on the Dashnaktsutyun list, publicly ridiculed the generals for their stated readiness to obey government orders to withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh. He also questioned their moral integrity.
According to Manukian, Ohanian swore at Dashnaktsutyun during the beating and said the NKR leadership would not allow Dashnaktsutyun and other local opposition groups to win the June 19 election. Ohanian appeared to deny this, saying that he has never had problems with Dashnaktsutyun. “Attempts to attribute anti-Dashnak feelings to me or to link the incident to the elections are absolutely groundless,” he said.
Dashnaktsutyun, which denounced the election as fraudulent, strongly condemned the incident and demanded the resignation Ohanian and the other generals. The Karabakh authorities promised an “objective investigation” into the violence but it is not clear if they plan to sanction any of the top army officers.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian told reporters in Yerevan that the incident should not degenerate into a dispute between the Karabakh military and the influential nationalist party represented in Armenia’s government. “Every military commander, especially somebody like Seyran Ohanian, must exercise a great deal of self-control so that no provocation can make him lose his nerve,” he said. “In this regard, Ohanian apparently has a problem to solve.”
But Sarkisian, who himself commander Karabakh Armenian forces during the war with Azerbaijan, went on to stress that the Karabakh commanders must be treated with more respect.
(Photolur photo: Seyran Ohanian.)