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Pashinian Installs New Senior Security Official


Armenia -- The main entrance to the National Security Service headquarters in Yerevan.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has installed a 31-year-old judge as a deputy director of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS).

President Armen Sarkissian formalized Andranik Simonian’s appointment with a decree signed on Wednesday.

Simonian has been a judge of the court of first instance of the country’s northern Lori province since June 2020. He previously worked as a prosecutor in Yerevan.

Some Armenian media outlets said the presidential decree initiated by Pashinian is a prelude to Simonian’s appointment as director of the NSS. The prime minister’s office did not comment on the media speculation.

Pashinian has replaced five heads of Armenia’s most powerful security service since coming to power less than three years ago. Two of them, Argishti Kyaramian and Mikael Hambardzumian, were fired during last fall’s war with Azerbaijan.

Kyaramian, 29, was sacked after four months in office, while Hambardzumian served as acting head of the NSS for only one month. The latter was replaced by the current NSS director, Armen Abazian, in November.

Hambardzumian and another former NSS director, Artur Vanetsian, are now outspoken critics of Pashinian. Vanetsian also leads a political party which is affiliated with an opposition alliance trying to oust Pashinian over his handling of the six-week war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Areg Kochinian, a political analyst, said the frequent changes of the NSS chiefs as well as their deputies reflect Pashinian’s “spontaneous and emotional” leadership style and “the current authorities’ terrible staffing policy.” He said they have a negative impact on the NSS’s activities.

“That reflects [negatively] on the predictability of this agency for both its personnel and our partner countries,” Kochinian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “It also definitely affects the effectiveness of the NSS.”

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