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Former Army Chief Prosecuted After Criticizing Pashinian


Armenia - Colonel-General Movses Hakobian, chief of the Armenian army's General Staff, visits an army recruitment center in Yerevan, 8 January 2018.

Law-enforcement authorities have brought criminal charges against Movses Hakobian, Armenia’s former top general, nearly six months after he accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian of mishandling the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The charges stem from his claims made at a November 19 news conference in Yerevan held more than a week after Russia brokered an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement to stop the war.

Hakobian claimed that disastrous decisions made by Pashinian allowed Azerbaijan to make sweeping territorial gains. In particular, he said, three days after the outbreak of the hostilities on September 27 Pashinian stopped the reinforcement of Armenian army units with reservists drafted as part of a military mobilization. He said many of the volunteers sent from Armenia instead were poorly trained and could not help frontline troops struggling to repel Azerbaijani attacks.

The Karabakh-born general also criticized arms acquisitions carried out by Armenia’s current leadership. He singled out the purchase of Russian Su-30SM fighter jets and second-hand air-defense systems, saying that none of them proved useful in the latest war.

Pashinian strongly denied the allegations through his spokeswoman. She said law-enforcement bodies “must investigate all statements made by Mr. Hakobian.”

The National Security Service (NSS) said this week that Hakobian has been charged with a disclosure of state secrets. It gave no details of the accusations.

Hakobian did not say whether or not he will plead guilty when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Tuesday. “Let them investigate,” he said. “If I’m guilty I will be punished.”

Hakobian also stopped short of calling the charges politically motivated. “I did not criticize [the government,] I just pointed to shortcomings.”

Hakobian, 55, is a prominent veteran of the first Karabakh war of 1991-1994. He was the commander of Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army before serving as chief of the General Staff of Armenia’s Armed Forces from 2016-2018. Pashinian sacked him shortly after coming to power in May 2018.

The prime minister went on to appoint the general as Armenia’s chief military inspector. Hakobian resigned from that post the day before his November news conference.

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