Facing a barrage of criticism at home and abroad, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has sought to put an end to an explosive row over whether Moscow-made missiles failed to detonate during the bloody Nagorno-Karabakh war.
Pashinyan had made the bombshell claims in an interview with local media last week, suggesting that the Russian Iskander rocket system, bought by Yerevan, had proven faulty. He argued that its payload had “failed to explode” or “exploded by 10 percent, for example.”
Moscow was quick to refute the suggestions. Viktor Zavarzin, the deputy chairman of a committee on defense and security in the Russian parliament, hit back at Pashinyan, arguing that “the Iskander is a highly precise weapon, which has repeatedly been proved during military exercises.” The prime minister’s allegations, he argued, were “a complete lie.”
The statements, widely interpreted as a snub to a potential key ally, have also ignited a political crisis for Pashinyan back home. A senior member of the military, Tiran Khachatryan, was dismissed shortly after he also refuted the claim that the rockets had been inoperable. Asked about the prime minister’s harsh review of the Iskander’s performance, the general said the claims were “impossible.”“Sorry, but this isn’t serious,” he told journalists.
Since then, the General Staff of the Armed Forces have published a joint statement in which they called on Pashinyan to resign. “The ineffective management of the current authorities and the most serious mistakes in foreign policy led the country to the brink of death,” the military chiefs wrote.
On Monday, the head of Armenia’s cabinet, Mane Gevorgyan, issued a statement rowing back on the claims about the Iskander. According to her, Pashinyan had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin and concluded that he had been misinformed about the performance of the weapons system.
“Moreover, the statement of the prime minister has nothing to do with the content and quality of the Armenian-Russian allied relations in the field of military and military-industrial cooperation,” the press release said. “There is no doubt that Russian weapons are among the best in the world.”
Later that day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov welcomed an end to the dispute, adding that “it was very important that the truth in this matter has been restored.”
Thousands have taken to the streets in Yerevan in the past week – both demonstrators supporting Pashinyan and those calling for him to stand down.
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