The commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army, General Levon Mnatsakanian, has accused one of his predecessors, Samvel Babayan, of exploiting recent heavy fighting with Azerbaijani forces for political purposes.
In televised remarks aired late on Monday, Mnatsakanian rejected Babayan’s criticism of the Defense Army’s response to the April 2 Azerbaijani offensive at several sections of “the line of contact.” He implied that Babayan is keen to regain the top military post in Stepanakert with his statements and high-profile return to Karabakh.
Babayan, who commanded the Karabakh Armenian army from 1993-1999, received a hero’s welcome from hundreds of supporters in Stepanakert on Sunday. He pledged to help boost Karabakh’s security, while claiming that he is not pursuing any “political objectives.”
“His statements include [calls for] sackings,” Mnatsakanian told Karabakh state television. “I find that dangerous and inappropriate for a person who used to occupy such a post.”
“I consider those activities an act of sabotage against our society, our sovereign state and its security,” he charged.
The general also condemned Babayan for criticizing the Karabakh army for allowing Azerbaijani troops to make modest territorial gains during the April 2-5 hostilities that involved scores of tanks and heavy artillery. He argued that the Azerbaijani army suffered hundreds of casualties during what was the worst fighting around Karabakh since 1994. The Azerbaijani operation therefore cannot be considered a success, he said.
“If such evaluations were made by civilians one could somehow understand them because they know little about military strategy and tactics,” said Mnatsakanian. “But it is very sad to hear such claims from … a former defense minister.”
Babayan, 51, left Karabakh in 2004 after spending four years in prison on controversial charges of plotting to assassinate the then president of the unrecognized republic, Arkady Ghukasian.He lived in Armenia until emigrating to Russia in 2011 for still unclear reasons.
Despite Babayan’s strong denial of any political ambitions, one of his staunchest backers in Karabakh, opposition politician Hayk Khanumian, announced on Sunday plans to launch a campaign for his reappointment as Defense Army commander. Khanumian was kidnapped and beaten up by several unknown men the following day.
Khanumian insisted on Tuesday that the attack was politically motivated. He said he knows seven of his attackers by face but refused to name any of them.
“I am confident that this case will be solved and at least the perpetrators [of the attack] will be punished,” the opposition parliamentarian told RFE/RL’s Armenia service (Azatutyun.am) from his hospital bed.
Khanumian was questioned by the Karabakh police earlier in the day. The police did not announce any arrests in the following hours.