YEREVAN (Azatutuyun.m)—The Armenian military reaffirmed its calls for the government’s resignation on Wednesday as the chief of its General Staff, Colonel-General Onik Gasparyan, pledged to challenge in court Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s decision to fire him.
Gasparyan indicated at the same time that he will step aside and not hold on to his post until a court ruling on his “unconstitutional” dismissal.
Pashinyan petitioned President Armen Sarkissian to relieve Gasparyan of his duties on February 25 immediately after Armenia’s top general and 40 other high-ranking officers issued a joint statement demanding the government’s resignation. He rejected the demand as a coup attempt.
Sarkissian refused to sign a relevant decree on February 27, saying that it appears to be unconstitutional and would deepen the “unprecedented” political crisis in the country. Pashinyan resent his motion to Sarkissian in another attempt to get him to fire Gasparyan.
The president again refused to sign the decree drafted by the prime minister’s office. But he decided not to ask the Constitutional Court to invalidate it, effectively paving the way for Gasparyan’s removal.
Citing Sarkissian’s failure to appeal to the court, the Armenian government stated on Wednesday morning that Gasparyan has automatically ceased to be the chief of the General Staff.
The defiant general issued a statement early in the afternoon describing the government statement and “the entire process of my dismissal” as unconstitutional. He said it shows that only Pashinyan’s resignation and the holding of snap parliamentary elections can end the political crisis in the country.
Gasparyan made clear that he will not continue to perform his duties and has instead asked the Administrative Court to reinstate him as army chief. “I will continue my service to the homeland and the Armenian people in another capacity,” he said.
Gasparyan went on to urge Armenian military personnel to “continue your selfless and patriotic service.”
In a separate statement released shortly afterwards, the military’s top brass reaffirmed support for Gasparyan and said it stands by its earlier “evaluations of the existing situation in the country.”
“There is only one solution to the situation and it is mentioned in [Gasparyan’s] appeal,” read the statement.
Meanwhile, Pashinyan moved to replace Gasparyan by another general, Artak Davtyan. President Sarkissian did not immediately sign a relevant decree requested by the prime minister.
Davtyan already served as chief of the General Staff from May 2018 to June 2020.