The commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army, Lieutenant-General Karen Abrahamian, was dismissed and replaced by his first deputy on Monday.
Bako Sahakian, the outgoing Karabakh president, signed relevant decrees five days after the sacking of two senior military officials in Armenia.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian fired the heads of the Armenian military police and an army department in charge of military moral following a spate of non-combat deaths of soldiers who served in Armenia and Karabakh.
Five of those soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in separate incidents investigated by law-enforcement authorities. The shootings caused public outrage and cast a renewed spotlight on the chronic problem of hazing and other abuses in the army ranks. Armenia’s political and military leadership pledged to improve military discipline in response to the outcry.
Pashinian and Sahakian chaired a meeting of top military officials in Stepanakert on Saturday. The participants included Abrahamian, Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and army chief of staff Lieutenant-General Artak Davtian. Few details of the meeting were made public.
The new commander of the Karabakh Defense Army, Major-General Jalal Harutiunian, served as Abrahamian’s first deputy and chief of the army’s General Staff until now.
Like his predecessors, Harutiunian, 45, is a decorated veteran of the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. He joined newly formed Karabakh forces in 1992 at the age of 17 and mostly served in artillery units during and after the war.
Harutiunian rose through army ranks after graduating from a Russian military academy in the early 2000s. In 2016, then Karabakh army chief Movses Hakobian described him as one of the army’s best officers.
Harutiunian was promoted to the rank of major-general in July last year.