YEREVAN — The session of the Investigative Committee of the National Assembly continued on June 27, 2023, with the participation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The committee is studying the circumstances of the 44-day war that took place in 2020.
Prime Minister Pashinyan expressed his desire for his questioning in the Investigative Commission to be made public. All previous meetings of the commission, which involved current and former officials and military personnel, were held behind closed doors.
However, the opposition factions “Hayastan” and “Pativ Unem” announced that they would not participate in the session of the Investigative Commission with the Prime Minister’s involvement.
During the live broadcast session, Pashinyan answered questions from the deputies regarding the negotiation process, the possibility of avoiding the war, intelligence accuracy, and the army’s combat capability. He admitted that he was unable to halt the escalation of the conflict, describing the negotiation process as a “conveyor belt of war” where the demand for concessions in peacetime was followed by a threat of war if those demands were not met.
Pashinyan clarified that he did not claim that avoiding the war was impossible in theory, but he believed that the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was a prerequisite for such a possibility. He stated that abandoning the Armenian vision of the conflict could have created a theoretical opportunity to prevent the war.
Regarding the army’s combat capability from 2018 to 2020, Pashinyan mentioned receiving assurances that it would not be easy to resume a large-scale war. He emphasized that the Defense Army and the Armed Forces of Armenia were capable of fulfilling their assigned tasks.
The Prime Minister reiterated that the purchase of weapons was not hindered by financial constraints. When asked if there were any political restrictions on using certain weapons, Pashinyan mentioned that he would address that question in the closed session but hinted at certain limitations on specific weapons.
Pashinyan also disclosed that until September 25, 2020, just two days before the war, the probability of war was estimated at only 30 percent by relevant bodies. He mentioned that this assessment was not solely based on intelligence but also on other data, including feedback from international partners. Pashinyan disagreed with the assessment and expressed that he personally did not agree with the likelihood of war being low.
During the session, Chairman of the Investigative Commission, Andranik Kocharyan, asked Pashinyan about his biggest disappointment and negative observations regarding the armed forces. The Prime Minister expressed shock at the significant number of desertions and similar incidents, citing information received from law enforcement officers. He stated that numerous criminal proceedings were initiated against approximately 12,600 individuals for various crimes related to military service and other offenses during the 44-day war and the declared state of martial law.
Kocharyan also questioned the absence of 5,000 soldiers out of the total armed forces personnel of over 117,000 to defend Shushi. Pashinyan replied that there is an ongoing court case related to that episode and promised to provide further details during the closed session.
When asked about his own guilt before the war, Pashinyan expressed that he considers himself guilty on political, moral, psychological, and human levels. He acknowledged responsibility for everything but found it difficult to articulate his self-indictment fully.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan suggested that some of the episodes that occurred on the front lines during the 44-day war aimed to orchestrate a change of power in Armenia. He mentioned that analyzing certain events led him to entertain such hypotheses, although he did not consider this possibility until the end of the war.
Pashinyan concluded by stating that Armenia did not recognize the independence of Nagorno Karabakh, because it was not possible to stop the war even on November 9.