Armenian POWs on trial in Baku earlier this year

Having Blamed Everything and Everyone Else, Pashinyan’s Government Now Blames POWs

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By Avo Piroyan

On 7 December, a video circulated on social media channels of Armenia’s Parliamentary Speaker, Alen Simonyan, criticizing Armenian prisoners of war in Azerbaijan and questioning their intent/goals when surrendering to Azerbaijan.

He said, “When terrorists hijack a plane, Israel does not negotiate with them, it shoots down that plane. Do you know who these prisoners are?

These are people who threw down their weapons, fled and got lost. I cannot speak about it publicly. Are you not interested in why the parents of these prisoners are not active now? Because these people know that the soldiers have deserted. They left their weapons and fled, and were captured.”

The private comments followed public ones by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in parliament on November 17, a day after a major flare-up in violence in Armenia’s south that led to more Armenian POWs. Pashinyan, taking a critical tone, said, “there needs to be a discussion around what it means to become a prison of war and under what circumstances [this happens].”

The comments mark a major shift in the Armenian government’s position towards Armenian POWs in Azerbaijan.

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In recorded speeches to campaign rallies just prior to the June 20 parliamentary elections, Pashinyan made promises around the return of including a bizarre public offer to Azerbaijan to exchange all POWs for his son. He also said that POWs and their families would forgive him for delaying their return by a few months for the sake of the nation.

The few months have passed since the election, indeed, over a year has passed since the Second Karabakh War and only a handful of POWs have been returned and all in exchange for significant concessions by Armenia.

The change in tact towards POWs is staggering, however, it is consistent with the Pashinyan government’s approach of deflecting responsibility and laying blame at others.

The long list of those to blame for the loss in the war and beyond include the former political elites due to their corruption of military funds, the army general staff for their organizational and other failings, Russian military equipment for being fault, Russia selling Su-30 fighter jets without missiles, volunteer units loyal to other factions deserting, among others.

Now the soldiery itself, who up to this point had been praised and even sympathized as having fought well but let down by their commanders, are to blame.

To what extent any of the above is indeed to blame is unclear, not least because the government has still not carried out an independent review of the war. However, what is clear, is that the Armenian government is to blame at least in part if not mostly for the overall outcome of the war. Nevertheless, to date only excuses why they are not to blame have been presented.

(Avo Piroyan is a regular contributor to the Mirror-Spectator and a professional journalist based in London, UK.)

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