YEREVAN — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused the country’s top military brass of instigating a coup following a press release by the Army General Staff calling for his government’s resignation on Thursday, February 25. The letter was also signed by the commanders of all five of Armenia’s military districts. According to the statement, the military claimed to no longer trust the government’s ability to “make adequate decisions in this critical situation for the Armenian people.”
The statement came a day after the dismissal of First Deputy Chief of the General Staff Tiran Khachatryan, but also coincided with a row over the prime minister’s recent comments over the effectiveness of the Russian-manufactured Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile system. The remarks, meant as a rebuke to criticism over their use by former president Serzh Sargsyan, were not well received in Moscow. Russia, one of the world’s largest weapons exporters, is notoriously protective of the reputation of its weapons systems.
However, according to Antranik Kocharyan, who chairs the parliamentary committee on security and defence, the firing was part of a series of comprehensive military reforms which the prime minister announced earlier this week. Such reforms had been in the planning stage for months following Armenia’s military misfortunes during last year’s Karabakh War. Investigators have already pressed charges on various high-ranking military figures over corruption and embezzlement cases.
Gathering thousands of supporters in Yerevan’s Republic Square, Pashinyan denounced what he claimed to be the military’s collusion with the “counter-revolutionary forces” represented by a coalition of mostly non-parliamentary opposition parties — the three largest of which formed the government until the 2018 Velvet Revolution forced them out.
“As the democratically elected prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, I order all servicemembers of every rank of the Armenian Armed Forces to perform their duties of defending the Homeland’s borders, and avoid meddling in politics” Pashinyan declared as crowds cheered.
The prime minister also defended his government’s record as a benefactor to the military since taking office two years ago, stating that no expense was spared in upgrading the army’s fighting capabilities, lifting living conditions and providing wage raises across the board. “Unfortunately, the regime which enriched itself at the military’s expense for decades continues to hold sway,” Pashinyan said, referring to the former administration.