A newspaper controlled by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s family has accused Artur Vanetsian of organizing a smear campaign against it, prompting an angry rebuttal from the former head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS).
Vanetsian was an influential member of Pashinian’s entourage until being unexpectedly sacked in September this year for still unclear reasons. He criticized Pashinian’s “impulsive” leadership style immediately after his dismissal, triggering a bitter war of words with the premier.
The “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, which is still officially run by Pashinian’s wife Anna Hakobian, reignited their public feud at the weekend with an article which charged that Vanetsian is behind slanderous reports about the prime minister and his family members spread by anti-government media. It said the main “ideologist” of this campaign is a former senior official linked to Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh Sarkisian’s son-in-law.
The unsigned article also accused Vanetsian of having close ties with Aram Vartanian, a reputed crime figure who was briefly imprisoned after the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” that brought Pashinian to power.
Pashinian’s 21-year-old daughter Mariam added her voice to the allegations. In a Facebook post, she described the former NSS director as the “coordinator” of the “conspiracy” against her family.
Vanetsian strongly denied the accusations and said he is considering taking legal action in response to the “ludicrous article.”
“For me, family is a sacred thing and attempts to use one’s own family to discredit others are unacceptable,” he wrote on his Instagram page.
“It is not the first time that the author of that article is trying to discredit me by tying me to his hidden fears,” added Vanetsian. “But the fact that the ‘struggle’ was lowered to this level was unexpected even for me. These lies will not go unanswered, and my lawyers are already dealing with the ‘report.’”
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General and Special Investigative Service would not say on Monday whether they will launch inquiries in connection with the “Haykakan Zhamanak” allegations.
Arman Boshian, a parliament deputy from Pashinian’s My Step alliance, said there may well be sufficient grounds for such an investigation. Boshian said he too sees a systematic effort to discredit Pashinian’s family which is “directed from one center.”
Since his sacking Vanetsian has not ruled out his involvement in active politics and participation in future Armenian elections. The 40-year-old, who oversaw a number of high-profile corruption investigations when he ran the NSS, set up last month a “development fund” which he said will support pro-democracy initiatives in the country.