YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The National Assembly overwhelmingly approved on Thursday a government proposal to introduce a new tax for sharply increasing compensations paid to the families of Armenian soldiers killed or seriously wounded in action.
A government bill unveiled last week will allow the closest relatives of soldiers who die or become gravely disabled while on combat duty to receive 10 million drams ($21,000). Wounded soldiers suffering from less serious disabilities will be paid 5 million drams.
In addition to these one-off payouts, the families of killed or maimed army officers, contract soldiers and conscripts would receive monthly pensions ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 drams for 20 years.
The compensation scheme would apply to combat incidents happening after January 2017. It would be financed from a special fund to which every working Armenian would contribute 1,000 drams (just over $2) per month.
The government initiative has prompted criticism from opposition politicians, civil society activists and other critics of the government.
Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan defended the measure and urged multi-partisan support for it. “I wouldn’t like to see anyone vote against this bill, even if their views do not allow them to vote for it,” he told the parliament. “That would send a very important message to those who are following this debate, and not only in Armenia.”