On March 16, ousted President of Armenia, Serj Sargsyan stood in front of an ad hoc parliamentary committee established to examine the military circumstances of war escalation in April 2016, when he was the Chief Military Commander. During the escalation, over 100 Armenian soldiers died, with almost the same number of casualties from Azerbaijan. The committee hearing lasted 5 hours.
The ad hoc committee was established in June 2019 by Prime Minister Pashinyan’s decree. The objective of the committee is to examine the circumstances of the war escalation in April 2016, to find out answers to the following questions: what exactly happened in April 2016? were the casualties proportionate to the situation or was it possible to avoid deaths? what were the main reasons for human and territorial losses? which departments/institutions failed their functions? what kind of improvements can be brought to the armed forces etc.? The committee hearings are held behind closed doors, on June 4th 2020 the latest, it will publish a report summarizing the documentation it has gathered and conclusions made as a result of interviews/interrogations of former and incumbent officials. The committee is chaired by Andranik Kocharyan of “My Step”, a former chairman of a similar ad hoc committee established in 2008 to examine the March 1 political repressions.
Serj Sargsyan came to the National Assembly with his bodyguard entourage, who had earlier checked up the parliament building’s room where the hearings was supposed to be held. Serj Sargsyan refused to answer journalists’ questions, promising to invite a press conference on this matter after the state of exception is over. His office later released a press statement quoting him in bellicose patriotic sentences. He has agreed to participate in the hearings on the condition that recordings of the interviews would be made available to him. Another key figure invited by the Committee to interviews is Colonel-General Yuri Khachaturov, chief of the General Staff of Armenia’s Armed Forces 2008 to 2016. He has been charged for overthrowing the constitutional order in 2008 in the high profile criminal case involving the second President Robert Kocharyan. Khachaturov has so far refused to attend the committee hearings.
Former Minister of Defense, Seyran Ohanyan has already attended committee hearings. Another invited high profile official is Bako Sahakyan, President of Nagorno Karabakh.
Committee Chairman, Andranik Kocharyan, answered some questions after the committee hearing with Serj Sargsyan. He claimed that never before has the state compiled such a volume of information as has this ad hoc committee. “The Committee now has around 100 hours of video materials and facts, and now, after Sargsyan’s testimony – 105 hours of valuable facts needed to understand what happened in 2016.” Kocharyan confirmed that the ousted President answered all the questions of the Committee, which however, does not mean that the Committee received answers to all questions. Sargsyan, according to Kocharyan, answered inasmuch as he knew. “But there are things that he might not remember or not be informed about, we have to find out, was he really not reported or does he not remember?” clarified Kocharyan.
The Committee still hopes that Yuri Khachaturov will revise his position and attend the parliamentary committee’s interrogation.
“5th Channel” a new TV-channel replacing former “Ararat TV” and keeping a pro-Kocharyan bias a few months ago aired a “film” with Serj Sargsyan commenting on April 2016. He said in the film, that Armenia lost 400ha of land during the April 2016 escalation, not 800ha. Journalists asked Chairman Kocharyan whether Sargsyan commented on his statements in the film. “He said that it was just a film. We have gone way beyond the issue of hectares, we were able to find out what he thinks on whether our counter-intelligence data fully reflected the information that was under circulation, whether the adversary reached their planned military goal etc.”
Kocharyan also said that Serj Sargsyan did admit that some failures took place, but who exactly failed is yet to be disclosed. A report was compiled by the Ministry of Defense yet in 2016, however, according to Kocharyan, the authors of the report pointed out to a number of people who failed, however did not see themselves as part of the overall failure.
In the meanwhile, the press statement released by Serj Sargsyan’s office stipulates that Sargsyan is praying for the victims of the April escalation. The absolute majority of the soldiers that died in this unexpected intense combat were from poor and extremely impoverished families, while the highest military executives and Serj Sargsyan’s own family have enriched themselves ever since holding power. Sargsyan has ultimately agreed to participate in Committee interrogations in order to put an end to all sorts of manipulations around the 4-day April war. He believes that the “April war heroes have exceeded their fathers and grandfathers in bravery… Land is kept with blood and blessed are those whose blood is absorbed by homeland soil… Relatives of those who died for our homeland should only be proud for their sons and not give way to manipulations… If we wish to have zero casualties, then we should give up the national purpose of living a free and dignified life in our own homeland… this is real-politic…”