The appointment of Major-General Edward Asrian was announced just over a week after the Armenian parliament approved a government bill that made the country’s top general directly subordinate to the defense minister.
The previous army chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Artak Davtian, and six other senior generals were sacked in February through presidential decrees also initiated by Pashinian.
The sackings came one year after Davtian’s predecessor, Onik Gasparian, and 40 other high-ranking officers issued a joint statement accusing Pashinian’s government of incompetence and misrule and demanding its resignation.
Incidentally, Asrian was among the signatories of the February 2021 statement welcomed by the Armenian opposition but condemned by Pashinian as a coup attempt.
Some pro-government lawmakers have acknowledged that Pashinian’s administration hopes the bill passed by the National Assembly on July 7 will prevent the army top brass from challenging them in the future.
Under the bill criticized by the opposition, the chief of the General Staff will also hold the post of first deputy defense minister. But he will not perform ministerial duties if Defense Minister Suren Papikian is absent from the country.
Pashinian promised a major reform of the military shortly after Armenia’s defeat in the 2020 war with Azerbaijan. He has replaced three defense ministers since a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the six-week hostilities in November 2020.
Opposition forces blame Pashinian for the disastrous war that left at least 3,800 Armenian soldiers dead. They also say that his administration is doing little to rebuild the armed forces.