YEREVAN — One of Armenia’s most influential army generals was sacked on Tuesday after being publicly rebuked by Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian.
President Serzh Sarkisian relieved Lieutenant-General Haykaz Baghmanian of his duties as deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff just hours after the extraordinary criticism.
Speaking to reporters, Sargsian said Baghmanian has asked to be discharged from the military “at my urging.” He accused the latter of failure to comply with unspecified “working agreements” which is “incompatible with further joint service.” The minister did not elaborate.
Baghmanian has held the position since 2009. The former Soviet army officer had previously commanded two of Armenia’s army corps.
Baghmanian has long been under media spotlight because of his reported business interests and lavish lifestyle that raised questions about his integrity. He has also been occasionally dogged by controversy.
Last year, for example, an entrepreneur from the eastern Armenian town of Martuni alleged that Baghmanian has gained ownership of one of his businesses by fraudulent means. The general denied the allegation. The business in question, a liquefied gas station, is now run by his 28-year-old son.
In 2010, the Hetq.am investigative publication reported that Baghmanian was spotted at a requiem service held for a deceased crime figure.
Hakob Badalian, a Yerevan-based political analyst, suggested that by openly attacking and forcing Baghmanian to quit Sargsian sought to demonstrate that he has sufficient authority over the military.
“This is a signal to foreign powers, the Armenian public and the ruling clique regarding Vigen Sargsian’s political clout in the armed forces,” Badalian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Sargsian, 42, is widely regarded a protégé and potential successor of President Sarkisian. He was the chief of the presidential staff before being appointed as defense minister just over a year ago.
Meeting senior military officials in late October, Sarkisian pledged to “modernize” Armenia’s army through a seven-year plan of actions which he said will be launched less than three months before he completes his final presidential term in April.