In a televised interview aired late on Friday, Kocharian charged that Pashinian’s government made the war “inevitable” with reckless diplomacy and miscalculations of Armenia’s military potential and needs. He said its “grave blunders” committed during the war predetermined Azerbaijan’s victory.
The sweeping territorial losses suffered by the Armenian side stripped Pashinian of his legitimacy, Kocharian told the Fifth Channel TV station in his first public remarks made since the outbreak of the six-week war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.
“I can recall only one case in history where a state lost [a war] but did not change its government,” he said. “It was [after] the first war in Iraq in 1991. Saddam Hussein stayed in power, using his entire totalitarian system. He ended up badly: they hanged him.”
“It is only natural that a defeated government must be replaced,” added the man who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008.
Pashinian hit back at Kocharian and Armenia’s other former leaders in a televised address to the nation aired the following morning.
“We failed not in diplomacy but in our attempts to offset diplomatic failures of the last 20-25 years,” he said.
Pashinian claimed that Karabakh peace proposals made by the United States, Russia and France during and after Kocharian’s rule were not favorable for Armenia and Karabakh. He went on to accuse the country’s former rulers of not doing enough to strengthen the Armenian military and illegally enriching themselves instead.
“The reason for our failure is that Armenia was a corrupt state for at least 25 years,” declared the embattled prime minister.
The bitter war of words came amid continuing calls for Pashinian’s resignation and snap general elections voiced by opposition groups, a growing number of public figures and even President Armen Sarkissian. The premier has rejected them, saying that he is still trusted by most Armenians.
Kocharian urged his supporters to participate in ongoing anti-government demonstrations organized by a coalition of 16 opposition parties. He backed an interim prime minister nominated by them earlier this week.
In that context, the 66-year-old ex-president did not deny having political ambitions. “I will try to do everything in my power to help the country overcome this difficult period,” he said.
Kocharian has been standing trial on corruption and coup charges that were leveled against him shortly after Pashinian swept to power in the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018. He rejects the accusations as politically motivated.
Russia has also criticized the criminal proceedings. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made a point of congratulating Kocharian on his birthday anniversaries and praising his legacy.
Kocharian on Friday also made a case for Armenia’s “much deeper integration” with Russia. He insisted that only Russia can help his country rearm its armed forces and confront new security challenges in the aftermath of the Karabakh war. This is why, he said, the next Armenian government should be not only more competent but also fully trusted by Moscow.