One day after being relieved of his duties as director of the National Security Service (NSS), Artur Vanetsian on Tuesday strongly denied collaborating with Armenia’s former leaders and warned them against exploiting his dramatic falling out with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Vanetsian specifically bristled at suggestions about his secret ties to Mikael Minasian, a once influential son-in-law of former President Serzh Sarkisian.
Pashinian was the first to announce on Monday that the NSS is no longer headed by Vanetsian “as a result of several discussions” held by the two men. He declined to give any reasons for the decision made by “mutual consent.”
Vanetsian indicated, however, that he himself decided to resign because of disagreements with the prime minister. In a written statement, he said that the latter’s leadership style is not good for Armenia and runs counter to the NSS “officer’s honor.”
Pashinian’s press secretary, Vladimir Karapetian, hit out at Vanetsian later on Monday, saying that his statement might have been written by “PR offices of corrupt persons who have ‘mistakenly’ avoided prosecution.” “We are calling on General Vanetsian not to lose the officer’s dignity cited by him,” warned Karapetian.
“That text was written by me and edited by my adviser Armen Davtian,” Vanetsian told three media outlets on Tuesday. He said it is “simply naïve” to suspect links between him and the former ruling regime.
“More specifically, let nobody try to link me with Mikael Minasian because for me Mikael Minasian is someone who has yet to answer many questions before Armenia’s laws,” Vanetsian went on. “The prime minister said yesterday that an investigation is underway. The investigation will establish whether or not Mikael Minasian must be brought to justice.”
Pashinian revealed on Monday that law-enforcement authorities are investigating Minasian’s role in what he described as a highly suspicious privatization of “one of Armenia’s strategic facilities.” He declined to elaborate, saying only that Sarkisian’s son-in-law should “return to Armenia and answer questions” from investigators.
Minasian is thought to have developed extensive business interests in Armenia during Sarkisian’s decade-long rule. He reportedly sold off at least some of his assets after the Pashinian-led “Velvet Revolution” that toppled his father-in-law.
Senior representatives of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) seized upon Vanetsian’s resignation to launch fresh verbal attacks on Pashinian.
Vanetsian responded by warning them against trying to “draw me into their games” and “meddle in my current relations with the authorities.” “We know how to continue those relations,” he said.
Vanetsian, who remains the chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia, was also coy about his political future. “I will not make any comments on engaging in politics,” he said. “For now I will concentrate on the development of our football.”
Vanetsian, 39, was named to run Armenia’s most powerful security service two days after Pashinian became prime minister in May 2018. He was regarded as an influential member of Pashinian’s entourage.