YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—An army general and two other senior Armenian Defense Ministry officials have been arrested in separate corruption investigations conducted by law-enforcement authorities on May 31.
The general, Melsik Chilingarian, was taken into custody late on Monday, ten days after being sacked as head of the ministry’s Department on Armaments which deals with storage, maintenance and repair of weapons and ammunition supplied to the Armenian Armed Forces.
Also arrested was Colonel Armen Markarian, one of Chilingarian’s subordinates who was in charge of vehicles used by the army. Markarian was fired earlier in May.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said the two men are suspected of abuse of power that resulted in “severe consequences.”
The third suspect, Colonel Mher Papian, holds a senior position in the Defense Ministry’s Department on Material-Technical Procurements tasked with arms procurements. He was detained as part of a separate inquiry conducted by the Investigative Committee. The law-enforcement agency said Papian risks prosecution on charges of “negligent attitude towards military service” which also had “severe consequences.”
A spokeswoman for the committee said that investigators will specifically look into the quality of various items which the arrested officials provided to the Armed Forces and determine whether they were purchased at inflated prices. She did not go into details.
Incidentally, President Serzh Sarkisian dismissed Papian’s immediate superior, Deputy Defense Minister Alik Mirzabekian, as well as General Arshak Karapetian, the military intelligence chief, and General Komitas Muradian, the commander of the Armenian army’s communication units, in late April.
The sackings came more than three weeks after the outbreak of heavy fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh that nearly escalated into a full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war. A senior pro-government lawmaker attributed them to “shortcomings” in the Armenian military’s response to an Azerbaijani offensive in Karabakh.
The Investigative Committee declined to clarify whether Monday’s arrests are also connected with the April 2 offensive that left more than 80 Armenian soldiers and volunteers dead.
Azerbaijani troops captured several Armenian positions along the Karabakh “line of contact” but failed to advance farther. According to independent sources in Baku, at least 94 Azerbaijani soldiers, many of them members of Special Forces, died in action.
The four-day hostilities raised questions about the Armenian military’s apparent lack of prior knowledge of the assault. Critics also suggested that Karabakh Armenian frontline troops did not have sufficient modern weapons and other military equipment when they came under attack.
Sarkisian and other Armenian officials have insisted that the Azerbaijani offensive failed because it was aimed at achieving significant territorial gains that would have led to a “military solution” to the Karabakh conflict.”