RFE/RL Armenian Report – 07/20/2021


Opposition Politician Goes On Trial

        • Naira Bulghadarian

Armenia - Opposition politician Vazgen Manukian attends the opening session of 
his trial in Yerevan, .

Vazgen Manukian, a veteran politician who led anti-government protests staged by 
the Armenian opposition this winter, went on trial on Tuesday, accused of 
calling for a violent overthrow of the constitutional order.

The accusation carrying up to three years in prison stems from a statement which 
Manukian made during a February 20 rally held in Yerevan by a coalition of 
opposition forces that tried to topple Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian following 
the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“We must be ready for revolting and taking power at lightning speed,” he told 
opposition supporters. He described that as “Plan B” of the opposition campaign 
for Pashinian’s resignation involving peaceful protests.

“We will follow Plan A but must always be ready for Plan B,” said the 
75-year-old politician whom the now defunct opposition grouping nominated as an 
interim prime minister in December.

Law-enforcement authorities indicted Manukian in early March, saying that he 
publicly advocated a violent seizure of power. They refrained from arresting him 
pending investigation.

ARMENIA -- Armenian opposition leader Vazgen Manukian delivers a speech during a 
rally to demand the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in 
Yerevan, March 1, 2021

Manukian again dismissed the accusation at the start of his trial in Yerevan. He 
said that his February 20 statement was “much softer” than what Pashinian did 
during the recent parliamentary election campaign.

Manukian said that Pashinian has not been prosecuted for brandishing a hammer, 
threatening his political opponents and pledging to “purge” the state 
bureaucracy and wage “political vendettas” against local government officials 
supporting the opposition.

A senior prosecutor insisted last week that Pashinian did not spread hate speech 
or promise a violent crackdown on the opposition on the campaign trail. He said 
the premier used the hammer only as a metaphor for a “dictatorship of the law” 
promised by him.

Manukian said he continues to believe that Pashinian is responsible for 
Armenia’s defeat in the war and unfit to deal with lingering security challenges 
facing the country. “Everything must to be done to make Pashinian resign,” he 
told reporters.

Manukian was one of the leaders of a political movement that ended Communist 
rule in Soviet Armenia in 1990 and led the country to independence. He served as 
prime minister from 1990-1990 and defense minister from 1992-1993.

Pashinian Replacing Armenia’s Defense Minister

Armenia -- Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian (R) visits a new Armenian 
army post set up in Syunik province, December 18, 2020.

Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian resigned on Tuesday ahead of a 
post-election cabinet reshuffle planned by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Pashinian had appointed the 65-year-old retired general as defense minister on 
November 20 in the wake of Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war with Azerbaijan.

In what appeared to be a related development, Pashinian appointed another 
general, Arshak Karapetian, as the country’s first deputy defense minister on 

At least two independent media outlets have reported after the June 20 
parliamentary elections that Karapetian will likely replace Harutiunian. The 
daily Zoghovurd said on Tuesday that he will be named defense minister “several 
days later,” after Pashinian forms a new cabinet required by Armenian law.

Karapetian, 54, is a former chief of Armenian military intelligence who was 
fired in 2016 following four-day hostilities around Nagorno-Karabakh which left 
about 80 Armenian soldiers dead. Then President Serzh Sarkisian said the 
intelligence service failed to obtain “precise information” about the 
Azerbaijani offensive beforehand.

Pashinian appointed Karapetian as his national security adviser seven months 
after coming to power in May 2018. The prime minister defended the appointment, 
saying that he has found no evidence of the Armenian military’s “lack of 
intelligence data.”

Several pro-opposition publications claimed at the time that Karapetian was the 
only high-ranking army officer who agreed to testify against former President 
Robert Kocharian and thus facilitate his arrest in July 2018 on coup charges.

In April this year, Pashinian promoted Karapetian to the post of first deputy 
chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff. The move followed an unprecedented 
statement by the army’s top brass accusing the prime minister of misrule and 
demanding his resignation.

Armenian Village Chief Wounded In Border Skirmish

        • Artak Khulian
        • Susan Badalian

Armenia - A road sign at the entrance to the border village of Yeraskh, July 20, 
2021. (Photo by Armenia's Office of the Human Rights Defender)

The mayor of an Armenian village bordering Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave was 
wounded on Monday night as a result of fresh shootouts between Armenian and 
Azerbaijani troops stationed at the border section.

The Armenian Defense Ministry has accused Azerbaijani forces of repeatedly 
firing at its border posts outside the village of Yeraskh over the past week. An 
Armenian soldier was killed in one such skirmish reported on July 14.

The ministry said that its troops deployed in the area about 70 kilometers south 
of Yerevan came under heavy gunfire on Monday evening. It said that the 
Azerbaijani side used mortars in the cross-border fighting that continued into 
the early hours of Tuesday.

No exchanges of gunfire were reported from the Yeraskh area later in the morning 
and in the afternoon.

According to a ministry spokesman, the head of the village administration, Radik 
Oghikian, was wounded while trying to extinguish a fire, apparently caused by 
gunshots, late in the evening. Oghikian was hospitalized and operated on in the 
following hours.

“He took a water pump to help put out the fire and was hit by shrapnel,” a 
Yeraskh resident told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “His condition is good right 

This and other villagers said they heard unusually loud gunshots overnight. They 
suggested that the Yeraskh border section saw the heaviest fighting in years.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry accused the Armenian side of violating 
the ceasefire and wounding an Azerbaijani army officer. Another Azerbaijani 
serviceman was reportedly wounded last week.

Armenia - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visits the village of Kut in 
Gegharkunik province bordering Azerbaijan, May 27, 2021.

The mayors of border villages located in two other Armenian provinces also 
reported cross-border firing on the night from Monday to Tuesday.

Nerses Shadunts, the head of a community consisting of several villages in 
southeastern Syunik province, said that Azerbaijani troops “sporadically” fired 
automatic weapons in the air for about three hours.

Sima Chitchian, who runs the border village of Kut in Gegharkunik province, 
heard similar gunfire which she said broke out late on Monday and lasted for 
more than three hours. “It was a sound of heavy weapons,” she told RFE/RL’s 
Armenian Service.

Kut is located at one of the several sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border 
where Azerbaijani troops reportedly advanced a few kilometers into Armenian 
territory in May.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian accused Baku on Saturday of planning to provoke 
“new military clashes” along the frontier and in Nagorno-Karabakh. He pointed to 
the armed incidents at the Yeraskh-Nakhichevan section.

On Monday morning, Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov reportedly 
ordered Azerbaijani army units to thwart Armenian “provocations” on the border. 
Echoing a recent statement by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, he said they 
must be prepared for another war with Armenia.

Armenian Opposition Bloc Avoids Boycott Of Parliament

        • Tatevik Lazarian

Armenia - Former President Robert Kocharian and senior members of his Hayastan 
(Armenia) bloc hold an election campaign rally in Yerevan's Republic Square, 
June 18, 2021.

A senior member of the main opposition Hayastan bloc confirmed on Tuesday that 
it will accept its seats in Armenia’s new parliament despite refusing to 
recognize official results of last month’s elections that gave victory to Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian’s party.

“Yes, we have decided to take our mandates,” Ishkhan Saghatelian told RFE/RL’s 
Armenian Service. “We will make a statement to that effect shortly.”

Hayastan and another major opposition bloc, Pativ Unem, faced calls for 
boycotting the National Assembly on a permanent basis following the June 20 
parliamentary elections which they claim were marred by serious irregularities.

Hayastan’s top leader, former President Robert Kocharian, indicated on June 22 
that his bloc will likely take up the 29 seats which it won, according to the 
Central Election Commission (CEC), in the 107-member National Assembly. He said 
presence in the parliament will give Hayastan “additional and substantial 
levers” to challenge Pashinian’s government.

Kocharian announced late on Monday that he himself will cede his seat to another 
Hayastan candidate. He argued, in particular, that he is a “man of the executive 
branch” and ran for the post of prime minister in the snap elections.

Pativ Unem, which is led by another ex-president, Serzh Sarkisian, is also 
expected to take up its 7 seats in the parliament. The bloc’s spokesman, Sos 
Hakobian, said it will announce its decision by Wednesday evening.

Pashinian’s Civil Contract party will control 71 parliament seats. No other 
political force will be represented in the National Assembly.

Hayastan, Pativ Unem and two smaller opposition groups challenged the official 
vote results in the Constitutional Court later in June. The court rejected over 
the weekend their demands to annul those results.

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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