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How Armenian Media Made Up the Circumstances of One Soldier’s Death

April's dramatic escalation of tensions along the Nagorno-Karabakh front-line was accompanied by the heroization of the dozens of fallen Armenian soldiers and other participants of military operations in the local media, which largely overshadowed the non-combat deaths that occurred during or in the days immediately following the escalation. Furthermore, the vast majority of media outlets went so far as to present those who had not been killed in action as victims of the “Four-Day War.” 

Conscript Gevorg Mghdesyan, a 20-year-old native of the town of Nor Hachn in Armenia's Kotayk province, died on April 7 at a combat position of a Nagorno-Karabakh military unit “under still unknown circumstances;” the criminal case into his death is currently undergoing preliminary investigation, while a fellow serviceman (name not released due to confidentiality reasons) has been arrested on charges of violating the rules of safe weapons handling which negligently caused the death of another person. 

On April 8, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, the spokesperson for Armenia's Ministry of Defense, published the names of 44 soldiers who were killed between April 2 and 8 in NKR on his Facebook page. Gevorg Mghdesyan was also on the list. In early October, Epress.am sent an inquiry to the ministry, requesting the full list of soldiers who died in Karabakh in April; according to the newly-provided list, Mghdesyan's death was the result of a non-combat-related injury.

The list subsequently went viral on social media, and all the 44 soldiers were perceived by the public to have been killed in the line of duty by Azerbaijani troops. The misinformation was soon picked up on well-known Armenian news websites, including Panarmenian.net, Razm.info, Lratvakan.am, Mediamax.am, and iLur.am: “Names of 44 Soldiers Who Died Defending Their Homeland;” “Glory to the [44] Heroes;” “Full List of Killed Soldiers” were among their headlines.

The official newsletter of the Ministry of Defense, Armenian Soldier, for its part, insisted that Gevorg Mghdesyan, along with the other 43 soldiers named previously by Hovhannisyan, had been killed in action; “These NKR Defense Army soldiers died as martyrs in the fighting along the contact line between Karabakh and Azerbaijani troops,” the article read.

Armenians Today, the official newsletter of the Ministry of Diaspora, published an article entitled “Power to Live Born from Loss” in which it claimed to have “discovered” the circumstances of Mghdesyan's death; the soldier, according to the article, was killed on April 7 “by enemy sniper.”

Patriot, a charity based in the United States that was providing financial aid for the families of fallen soldiers, also visited Gevorg Mghdesyan's relatives to “deliver our donors’ gratitude and $500 in donations.” The donors' letter of gratitude, specifically, read; “We were stunned and thrilled by Gevorg's incredible bravery. […] His selflessness gave life to all of us – our children, our parents. He sacrificed his love, so that we can love. He sacrificed his life goals, so that we can reach ours.”