YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The director and two other employees of a morgue were fired on May 26 as the Armenian authorities faced accusations of showing disrespect to the bodies of Armenian soldiers killed during last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
At least 3,800 of them died during six weeks of heavy fighting with Azerbaijani forces stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire in November. Hundreds of others remain unaccounted for.
Their relatives have regularly staged protests in recent months to demand that the Armenian government do more to recover the bodies of their loved ones or shed more light on their whereabouts. Many of them distrust official data on still unidentified bodies of dead soldiers kept at Armenian morgues.
On Monday, May 31, some angry relatives forced their way into the mortuaries to count the number of corpses and body parts stored there. They took pictures inside a morgue in Abovian, a town 15 kilometers north of Yerevan.
The photographs circulated on social media showed plastic bags filled with human remains lying on the ground in its basement, which was not refrigerated to prevent their decomposition. They caused uproar in the country, with many accusing the authorities of dishonoring the Armenian soldiers killed in action.
The Armenian Ministry of Health initially denied that their remains are kept in degrading conditions. But Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan publicly apologized to soldiers’ families on Tuesday, saying that she was wrong not to have personally inspected the Abovian morgue.