Armenian Border Guard Chief Fired after Deputy’s Arrest

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The longtime commander of Armenian border guard troops Major-General Levon Stepanian–was dismissed of his duties by President Robert Kocharian on Tuesday following the arrest of his deputy Colonel Vahan Mkhitarian on corruption charges.

Military prosecutors and the National Security Service said Mkhitarian is suspected of "large-scale bribery" and will face criminal prosecution. They also said they discovered three illegally obtained assault rifles in Mkhitarian’s office and apartment. Both agencies refused to divulge further details of the case.

Although there was no official explanation for Stepanian’s firing–speculations lead the criminal proceedings against Mkhitarian–though it is not yet known whether the general is also suspected of engaging in illegal practices.

A former Soviet army officer–Stepanian has been the commander of Armenia’s lightly armed border guard forces since their creation in 1992. Their main focus has been Armenia’s border with Turkey and Iran that is also guarded by Russian border guards.

In a separate presidential decree–Stepanian was replaced by Vyacheslav Voskanian. His previous place of work and other professional background was not available.

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