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Pashinian Replacing Armenia’s Defense Minister


Armenia -- Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian (R) visits a new Armenian army post set up in Syunik province, December 18, 2020.

Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian resigned on Tuesday ahead of a post-election cabinet reshuffle planned by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Pashinian had appointed the 65-year-old retired general as defense minister on November 20 in the wake of Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war with Azerbaijan.

In what appeared to be a related development, Pashinian appointed another general, Arshak Karapetian, as the country’s first deputy defense minister on Tuesday.

At least two independent media outlets have reported after the June 20 parliamentary elections that Karapetian will likely replace Harutiunian. The daily Zoghovurd said on Tuesday that he will be named defense minister “several days later,” after Pashinian forms a new cabinet required by Armenian law.

Karapetian, 54, is a former chief of Armenian military intelligence who was fired in 2016 following four-day hostilities around Nagorno-Karabakh which left about 80 Armenian soldiers dead. Then President Serzh Sarkisian said the intelligence service failed to obtain “precise information” about the Azerbaijani offensive beforehand.

Pashinian appointed Karapetian as his national security adviser seven months after coming to power in May 2018. The prime minister defended the appointment, saying that he has found no evidence of the Armenian military’s “lack of intelligence data.”

Several pro-opposition publications claimed at the time that Karapetian was the only high-ranking army officer who agreed to testify against former President Robert Kocharian and thus facilitate his arrest in July 2018 on coup charges.

In April this year, Pashinian promoted Karapetian to the post of first deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff. The move followed an unprecedented statement by the army’s top brass accusing the prime minister of misrule and demanding his resignation.

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