Artur Vanetsian, the former National Security Service (NSS) chief increasingly at loggerheads with Armenia’s political leadership, has been summoned for questioning in two criminal investigations, it emerged on Friday.
The Investigative Committee said it questioned Vanetsian on Thursday as a witness in the ongoing inquiries into his leaked phone conversations and alleged corrupt practices in the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA).
Vanetsian’s sensitive phone calls with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Sasun Khachatrian, the head of the Special Investigative Service (SIS), were secretly recorded in July 2018 and posted on the Internet in the following months. The then NSS director discussed with them coup charges brought against former President Robert Kocharian and retired General Yuri Khachaturov.
Vanetsian could be heard saying that he pressured a judge to sanction Kocharian’s arrest. He at the same time urged the SIS not to arrest Khachaturov, who was the secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) at the time, warning of a negative reaction from Russia.
“As part of the wiretapping investigation, Mr. Vanetsian’s [mobile] phone was subjected to an examination,” Naira Harutiunian, the Investigative Committee spokeswoman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. She also said that nobody has been indicted in that probe yet.
The other case stems from financial abuses allegedly committed Ruben Hayrapetian, the controversial former head of the FFA, and individuals linked to him. Vanetsian succeeded Hayrapetian as FFA president following the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia. He resigned from that post last November two months after being sacked as NSS director for still unclear reasons.
Vanetsian on Friday declined to comment on his interrogations, referring all inquiries to his lawyer Lusine Sahakian. “We decided not to make comments for now,” Sahakian said for her part.
Vanetsian has repeatedly traded bitter recriminations with Pashinian since his sacking. In a January 11 article, the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily controlled by Pashinian’s family accused him of organizing a smear campaign against the family. Hrachya Hakobian, a pro-government parliamentarian and Pashinian’s brother-in-law, alleged afterwards that Vanetsian was fired in September because he was plotting a coup.
Vanetsian, who has not been charged with any crimes so far, denounced the “Haykakan Zhamanak” article as slanderous and threatened to file a libel suit against the paper.
The former NSS chief also scoffed at Pashinian’s weekend allegations that Armenian security services have thwarted a “hybrid” anti-government conspiracy hatched by current and former officials. He said Pashinian’s Civil Contract party should consider replacing the prime minister. Senior party figures hit back at Vanetsian.