Tonoyan warned that he must not be made a scapegoat for Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war.
“A visible desire to find the scapegoat is hovering, so to speak, in the political scene, but I think that there will be surprises in this regard,” he said in written comments to the press circulated by his lawyers. “One thing is clear: we are witnessing a fanatical desire to discredit me and the defense system.”
Tonoyan, two generals and an arms dealer were arrested by the National Security Service (NSS) in September in a criminal investigation into supplies of allegedly outdated rockets to Armenia’s armed forces. The NSS charged them with fraud and embezzlement that cost the state almost 2.3 billion drams ($4.7 million). All four suspects deny any wrongdoing.
The NSS said in September that a private intermediary delivered the rockets to Armenia in 2011 and that the Defense Ministry refused to buy them after discovering that they are unusable.
Seyran Ohanian, Armenia’s defense minister from 2008 to 2016, confirmed afterwards that 70 percent of them were not accepted by the military during his tenure. The rebuff forced the supplier to store the rockets at a Defense Ministry arms depot, he said.
Tonoyan insisted on Monday that the ammunition did not go past its expiration and was successfully used during the Karabakh war. He complained that the NSS cancelled a planned test-firing of those rockets during the probe described by him as “not objective.”
One of Tonoyan’s lawyers, Sergey Hovannisian, also slammed the NSS investigators for not carrying out the forensic tests. He said they would have proved that the rockets are usable and the investigators would have had “no choice but to close the criminal case.”
The NSS declined to comment on that.
In an October 11 statement, Tonoyan’s legal team noted that he possesses “a great deal of information” about defense issues but is not publicizing it to disprove the accusations because he places Armenia’s national security above his personal interests.
Asked whether he thus sent a warning to Armenia’s political leadership, the former minister said: “Up until now I have maintained restraint in terms of getting involved in political processes … There will still be occasions to present to the public my clarifications about the 44-day war through an investigative commission to be formed [by the Armenian parliament,] provided that it works objectively and impartially.”
“As I said in my November 20 statement, I am ready to bear my share of responsibility. But only for what I did, and not for what I did not do.”
Tonoyan stopped short of openly accusing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian of ordering the criminal proceedings against him. He blamed instead other, unnamed officials for what he considers baseless charges.
Pashinian appointed Tonoyan as defense minister just days after coming to power in May 2018. The latter was sacked in November 2020 less than two weeks after a Russian-brokered agreement stopped the devastating war.
Some senior pro-Pashinian parliamentarians blamed Tonoyan for Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war. The prime minister faced angry opposition demonstrations at the time.