YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The military elite in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic–led by defense minister Samvel Babayan–relinquished their military honors and medals Friday–as an apparent sign of protest against the government of president Arkady Ghoukassian. In an announcement–the defense ministry explained that the action was undertaken due to reports emanating from Ghoukassian’s office claiming a meeting was held between top military brass and the president on Wednesday. The military officials deny such a meeting.
On the other hand–president Ghoukassian’s office issued a statement Friday backing up his earlier reports of a meeting with the military brass.
"Last night–July 8–Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Defense Minister Lieutenant-General Samvel Babayan and a group of high-ranking military commanders of the Karabakh Defense Army relinquished all orders conferred on them by the Karabakh President to Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian in protest of the latter’s actions defying their military and human honor," the defense ministry announcement stated.
"True–July 8 evening news programs of the national televisions of Armenia and Karabakh spread report received from the Office of the Karabakh President stating that on July 6 during Ghoukassian’s meeting with eleven military commanders–the commanders allegedly approved the recent steps taken by the president as well as his general political line. However–the commanders participating in that meeting not only disapproved the policy the president has followed since June 24–but even voiced their concerns over the internal political crisis and tension that it entailed. The meeting was held on the initiative of Ghoukassian," continued the announcement.
"The commanders of the Karabakh Defense Army believe that the President of the Karabakh misrepresented the contents of the meeting and distorted their thoughts in pursuit of his political goals thereby defying their human and military honor. By relinquishing the orders conferred on them by the state in acknowledgment of their services during the Karabakh war–the military commanders expressed their protest and indignation over the mean behavior of the president," asserted the defense ministry.
"Although the Karabakh Minister of Defense did not participate in the meeting–he–too–returned his orders–including the number one order of ‘Golden Eagle’–to the president to show his solidarity with the commanders," concluded the statement.
In response–the press service of the president of Nagorno Karabakh issued the following statement:
"A report disseminated by the press service of the Ministry of Defense of Nagorno Karabakh on July 9 denies the contents of information regarding the meeting of the Karabakh president with the Karabakh top military officers spread by the presidential press service on July 8. We consider it necessary to confirm our report and emphasize the following:
"President of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic Arkady Ghoukassian respects the military–in particular–those commanders who were present at the meeting. He highly appreciates their merits and their courageous service to the Homeland. The president has always noted such attitude to the military in his public addresses. Both the president and the commanders voiced concern over the situation in the republic and–supporting the line aimed at establishing the rule of law and order–agreed to seek for solutions that would be painless for the society. The president promised to return for further discussion of some personnel problems which aroused the concern of the commanders.
"The fact that the commanders relinquished their medals and orders after the meeting with the president arouses serious doubts about the independence of their decision. There is a certainty that in the near future these doubts will be justified. The president describes such a precedent as an action provoked by an individual–as an attempt to drive a wedge between the president and the army–between the army and the people. According to Ghoukassian–this separation will never happen since the army is a part of the people and it serves only the people. And medals and orders relinquished by the commanders–were given to them on behalf of the people."
Ghoukassian fired his prime minister Jirayr Poghosian and replaced him Anushavan Danielian. This move stirred emotions and involved the authorities of Armenia in the internal political rift in Karabakh.
Last week–Kocharian sent a stern warning to forces that aimed to "illegally" topple the Ghoukassian administration–and pledged his support for his Karabakh counterpart.
With the internal political crisis in Karabakh–the media reported that Kocharian was scheduled to visit Stepanakert to discuss ways to stabilize the situation in Karabakh with the country’s leaders. However–the presidential press service said the president will not go to Karabakh this weekend.
Reports from Karabakh–however–indicate that Kocharian will be visiting Stepanakert Saturday to meet with Ghoukassian and other Karabakh officials to end the two-week-old standoff.
Karabakh Prime Minister Anushavan Danielian and Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian represented Stepanakert at the July 8 funeral of Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin I. Neither Ghoukassian nor Babayan participated in the funeral–probably due to the recent developmen’s in the internal political life of the republic.