Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Artur Vanetsian, the former head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) forced to resign last week, have traded fresh and more bitter recriminations.
Vanetsian hit out at Pashinian when he announced his resignation in a statement issued on September 16. He said that the latter’s “impulsive” leadership style is not good for Armenia and runs counter to the NSS “officer’s honor.”
Pashinian swiftly rounded on Vanetsian through his press secretary. His chief of staff said afterwards the former NSS chief was sacked because the prime minister was dissatisfied with his work.
Visiting the United States on Sunday, Pashinian accused Vanetsian of showing “disrespect for the officer’s honor” by making the “statement against his commander-in-chief.” “Would an officer do such a thing?” he told a news conference held in Los Angeles. “Do you know what that means? That means throwing your shoulder straps into a trash bin.”
“That is disrespectful towards Armenia’s armed forces,” he said, likening Vanetsian to Soviet generals who staged a failed coup d’état in August 1991.
Vanetsian hit back at Pashinian in equally strong terms on Monday, saying that the premier is misleading Armenians and “again not thinking about consequences of his words.” “Imagine what will happen if I suddenly start speaking up without thinking about consequences,” he warned in written comments to the “Hraparak” daily.
Vanetsian claimed that following his resignation Pashinian has been “sending people to me to ask me to keep silent for a while so that the situation calms down.” “But I can see now that he is once again breaching understandings and making incomprehensible and, in essence, shallow populist statements,” he said.
“I insist with certitude: time will tell who or what will end up in a trash bin,” added the 39-year-old career officer of Armenia’s most powerful security service.
Pashinian appointed Vanetsian as NSS director two days after the Armenian parliament elected him prime minister in May 2018. Vanetsian quickly became one of the most influential members of his entourage, overseeing a number of high-profile corruption investigations.
Pashinian has not yet publicly explained why he decided to the replace the NSS chief. His spokesman, Vladimir Karapetian, suggested last week that Vanetsian might have secret ties to Armenia’s former leadership. Vanetsian strongly denied that.