Armenian law requires virtually all men aged between 18 and 27 to serve in the armed forces for two years. A Defense Ministry bill circulated last week would shorten this period to just four and a half months for draftees paying the state 24 million drams ($60,000).
Representatives of the country’s leading opposition forces condemned the proposed arrangement as unfair and dangerous for national security.
Tonoyan added his voice to the criticism in written comments to the press disseminated through his lawyers.
“The presented draft is consistent with the ‘peace agenda’ of the [country’s] government and political leadership,” he said. “I personally and the Defense Ministry always spoke out against such initiatives [in the past.]”
“We must welcome and encourage service in the Armenian Armed Forces, rather than set a ransom for exemptions from serving the homeland,” added Tonoyan.
The bill needs to be discussed and approved by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government before it can be submitted to the parliament. An explanatory note attached to it says that proceeds from this scheme would be used for sharply increasing the wages of the Armenian army’s contract soldiers.
Armen Khachatrian, a pro-government member of the parliament committee on defense and security, praised the proposed legislation last week. But Gagik Melkonian, another committee member representing the ruling Civil Contract party, signaled opposition to it on Monday.
“I said years ago that we must make sure that there are conditions in which the rich do not serve [in the military] and only [ordinary] people do,” Melkonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Tonoyan, who served as defense minister from 2018-2020, was arrested last September in a criminal investigation into supplies of allegedly outdated rockets to Armenia’s armed forces. He strongly denies fraud and embezzlement charges leveled against him as well as two generals and an arms dealer. They went on trial in January.