Pashinian said last week that the Iskander missiles “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 He also suggested that the sophisticated missile system might be outdated.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 ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said the Armenian army did not fire any Iskander missiles during the six-week hostilities stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.
“In all likelihood, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian was misled,” Konashenkov said.
Pashinian’s press secretary, Mane Gevorgian, gave the same explanation on Monday.
“An analysis of available facts and data has led the Armenian prime minister to conclude that he did not receive correct reports about this matter,” she said, adding that Pashinian and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed it in a February 25 phone call.
Gevorgian went on to stress that “Russian weapons are one of the best in the world” and that Armenia intends to deepen military ties with Russia.
The Kremlin publicly accepted the explanation. “It is very important that the truth about this issue has been restored,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Several Armenia media outlets quoted on February 24 the first deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, Tiran Khachatrian, as also refuting Pashinian’s claim. Khachatrian was sacked hours later.
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.