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Government, Military Vow Strong Action Over Army Deaths


Armenia -- Lieutenant General Artak Davtian, the chief of Armenian army's General Staff, speaks at a news conference in parliament, Yerevan, February 18, 2020.

Armenia’s leadership pledged to punish senior military officials and improve military discipline on Tuesday following a spate of non-combat deaths of Armenian army soldiers reported in recent weeks.

The Armenian military has reported 13 such deaths since the beginning of this year. Eight of these soldiers have died in accidents and other circumstances not related to their military service.

The five other victims are believed to have committed suicide or been shot dead by other servicemen in separate incidents investigated by law-enforcement authorities. The latter arrested three soldiers in connection with one of those deaths which occurred at an army base in Nagorno-Karabakh late last month.

The shooting incidents have caused outrage in Armenia and cast a renewed spotlight on the chronic problem of hazing and other abuses in the army ranks. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian discussed them with top military and law-enforcement officials at an emergency meeting held on Monday amid continuing criticism of the army command voiced by some opposition politicians and civic activists.

Pashinian said on Tuesday that “a number of important, including personnel-related, decisions” were made at the meeting and called for an end to the “nervous atmosphere around the army.”

In a Facebook post, he said that the number of non-combat deaths among Armenian military personnel fell to a “historical low” last year thanks to the authorities’ efforts to tackle the problem. “Our objective is to maintain this dynamic,” he wrote.

The chief of the army’s General Staff, Lieutenant-General Artak Davtian, confirmed the impending “personnel changes” within the military but did not shed light on them. He declined to comment on reports that the chief of the Armenian military police is among senior officers who will be sacked in the coming days.

Davtian stressed that other officers have already been demoted or discharged from the armed forces this month because of the non-combat fatalities. He also expressed confidence that investigators will identify those directly responsible for them.

Armenia’s top military investigator, Artak Krkyasharian, discussed the ongoing inquiries with his subordinates on Tuesday. He was reported to order them to publicize details of the probes.

Davtian spoke to reporters after meeting with Armenian parliament deputies behind the closed doors. He assured them that the authorities are doing their best to eradicate “elements of the criminal subculture” and strengthen discipline in the army.

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