YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Monday that he has dismissed Artur Vanetsian, the head of Armenia’s most powerful security agency.
Pashinyan said the decision was made by “mutual consent” and “as a result of several discussions” held with Vanetsian. “We discussed several scenarios for Mr. Vanetsian’s further activities,” he said, adding that Vanetsian will continue to head the Football Federation of Armenia.
Pashinyan declined to give any reasons for the move, citing national security considerations. Nor did Pashinyan say who will replace Vanetsian as director of the National Security Service (NSS).
“There are different candidates [for the post] and I will consider them and make a decision,” he told a news conference held in Vanadzor.
Vanetsian indicated, meanwhile, that he himself decided to resign because of disagreements with Pashinyan.
“State-building has its logic: spontaneity of actions and decisions and a work style of not differentiating between primary and secondary and transient and lasting things is not the path leading to the realization of goals,” he said in a written statement issued during Pashinyan’s news conference. “It has nothing in common with the officer’s honor: the officer’s epaulettes are incompatible with such a course of events.
“Let my resignation be a sobering ‘Stop’ step,” Vanetsian added without elaborating.
Pashinyan declined to respond to the veiled criticism when journalists told him about it. He said he needs to read the statement first.
The prime minister’s spokesman, Vladimir Karapetyan hit out at Vanetsian later in the day. “It has to be clarified who wrote the text attributed to Artur Vanetsian,” he told the Armenpress news agency. “We hope that its authors are not the PR offices of corrupt persons who have ‘mistakenly’ avoided prosecution.”
“We are calling on General Vanetsian not to lose the officer’s dignity cited by him,” said Karapetyan.
Pashinyan appointed Vanetsian as NSS director two days after becoming prime minister in May 2018. The 39-year-old career officer of the former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB has since been one of the most influential members of his entourage, overseeing a number of high-profile corruption investigations. Some Armenian media outlets have reported in recent weeks that relations between the two men have deteriorated because of Pashinyan’s dissatisfaction with the work of the NSS.