Earlier this week, Pashinian responded to former President Serzh Sarkisian’s claim that the army failed to adequately use its Iskander missiles against advancing Azerbaijani troops because of wrong government orders.
Pashinian said they were fired but “did not explode or exploded by 10 percent.” He also suggested that the sophisticated missile system might be outdated.
Pashinian’s remarks provoked a storm of criticism from Russian pro-government lawmakers and pundits. They accused him of incompetence and deceit.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that it was “bewildered and surprised” by the remarks. The chief ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said Moscow has “objective and credible” evidence that the Armenian army did not fire any Iskander missiles during the six-week hostilities stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.
“The entire stockpile of the missiles remains in arms depots of Armenia’s Armed Forces,” Konashenkov said in televised remarks.
“In all likelihood, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian was misled, as a result of which he used inaccurate information,” added the official. He insisted that the Iskander is the best weapon of its kind in the world.
With a firing range of up to 500 kilometers, the Iskander is known for its precision and ability to overcome modern missile defense shields. Russia supplied such systems to Armenia in 2015.
On Wednesday, several Armenia media outlets quoted the first deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, Tiran Khachatrian, as also refuting Pashinian’s claim. Khachatrian was sacked later on Wednesday.
In a statement issued the following morning, the army’s top brass strongly condemned the sacking, accused Pashinian’s government of incompetence and misrule and demanded its resignation. The prime minister responded by accusing the military of attempting to stage a coup d’etat and moving to fire the chief of the General Staff, Onik Gasparian.
Armenian opposition groups campaigning for Pashinian’s resignation voiced strong support for the military.
Later on Thursday, Pashinian phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the deepening political crisis in Armenia.