YEREVAN — Armenian parliament member Sasun Mikaelyan from the governing My Step faction was elected on April 7 as new head of the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh War Veterans.
Yerkrapah members unanimously voted for Sasun Mikaelyan, 61, a prominent war veteran. He pledged to resign from the party leadership in May. But he gave no indications that he will also terminate his membership in Civil Contract.
Yerkrapah was established by the late Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan and played a major role in Armenian politics in the 1990s and the early 2000s. It began losing its political influence after Sarkisyan was assassinated in the October 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament.
But the group remained linked to the Armenian military in one way or another. It sent thousands of armed volunteers to Nagorno-Karabakh following the outbreak of large-scale hostilities there in April 2016.
Manvel Grigoryan, an army general who succeeded Sarkisyan as Yerkrapah chairman in 1999, served as Armenia’s deputy defense minister from 2000-2008. He was removed from the military after supporting former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in the February 2008 presidential election.
In 2010, Grigoryan openly pledged allegiance to then President Serzh Sarkisian. He and Yerkrapah helped Sarkisian win reelection in a disputed vote held in 2013.
Grigoryan resigned as Yerkrapah leader shortly after being arrested in June 2018 on charges of illegal possession of weapons and ammunition, misappropriation of property worth more than 101.2 million drams (more than $207 thousand), tax evasion of more than 1.22 billion drams (more than $2.5 million), embezzlement of state funds in the amount of over 1.23 billion drams (over $2.5 million) and organization of theft of property in the amount of 37.1 million drams (over $75.8 thousand). His arrest came two months after Sarkisian was overthrown in the “velvet revolution” led by PM Nikol Pashinyan. Mikaelyan actively participated in the protest movement.
The new Yerkrapah leader insisted that he will not turn the veterans’ union into the ruling party’s “appendage.” “You saw what happened when they tried to make Yerkrapah serve the [former] authorities,” he said.
Mikaelyan made clear at the same time that Yerkrapah “will never hamper” the current Armenian government.
Pashinyan attended and addressed the Yerkrapah congress.