The chief of the Armenian police, Valeri Osipian, was dismissed on Wednesday two days after the resignation of the head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS).
President Armen Sarkissian relieved Osipian of his duties in a decree requested by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Pashinian did not immediately explain the move. He appointed Osipian as his chief adviser later in the day.
Osipian held a farewell meeting with senior police officers shortly before the announcement of the presidential decree.
“Mr. Osipian thanked all police officers for their cooperation,” the chief police spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, told reporters after the meeting. He did not give reasons for his dismissal, said Aharonian.
In an ensuing written statement, Osipian said he “will talk about the reasons for my departure later on.” He stressed that he always been guided by the police “officer’s honor and dignity.”
According to press reports, Osipian decided to step down at the end of Tuesday’s session of Armenia’s Security Council chaired by Pashinian. Some media outlets claimed that he angered the prime minister with his reluctance to order police forces to disperse protesters blocking the roads leading to the Amulsar gold deposit which is due to be developed by a Western mining company.
Parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan and a spokesman for the Security Council secretary, Armen Grigorian, denied those reports on Wednesday. They insisted that the council did not discuss Osipian’s future.
The police chief was sacked two days after the resignation of Artur Vanetsian, the influential NSS director. In a statement, Vanetsian effectively criticized Pashinian’s leadership style, saying that it runs counter to “the officer’s honor.” The premier rounded on Vanetsian through his press secretary.
Pashinian has yet to announce who will replace Vanetsian and Osipian.
Pashinian named Osipian to run the national police service in May 2018 two days after being elected prime minister following weeks of anti-government protests led by him.
Osipian was until then a deputy head of Yerevan’s police department responsible for public order and crowd control. He personally monitored many anti-government rallies staged in the Armenian capital during former President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule. Osipian frequently warned and argued with Pashinian during the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” that toppled Sarkisian.
During his tenure Osipian repeatedly claimed to have eliminated corruption in the police ranks. While not denying this, critics blamed him and the new authorities as a whole for Armenia’s rising crime rate.