Armenian Officials Cleared Over Azeri Advance Into Border Area

Posted on May. 10. 2024

Azatutyun – Investigators have decided not to prosecute any of the officials blamed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for Azerbaijan’s seizure last year of land belonging to an Armenian border village, Prosecutor-General Anna Vardapetian said on Friday. 

Azerbaijani army units redeployed in March 2023 to more parts of the Lachin district sandwiched between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said hours later that they advanced up to 300 meters into Armenian territory at five border locations adjacent to the village of Tegh. 

As a result, Tegh lost a large part of its agricultural land and pastures, according to local government officials and farmers. Tensions around the village escalated in April 2023 into a skirmish between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces which left at least seven soldiers from both sides dead. 

The Armenian opposition blamed Pashinian for the fresh territorial gains made by Azerbaijan. Opposition leaders said he should have ordered the Armenian army or border guards to take up positions along the Armenian side of the Tegh border section ahead of the Azerbaijani advance. Pashinian sought to shift the blame onto other Armenian officials not named by him. 

“Concrete individuals were given concrete instructions and they failed to carry out those instructions,” the premier said at the time. “This must entail some administrative consequences. We also need to investigate things more deeply and understand what happed and why it happened.” 

Pashinian sacked the commander of Armenia’s Border Guard Troops, Colonel Arman Maralchian, the same day. He has still not appointed Maralchian’s replacement. 

Two days after Pashinian’s comments, military investigators launched an inquiry into possible “negligence” by military officers or other security personnel, a crime punishable by between four and eight years’ imprisonment. 

Vardapetian revealed that that they have not charged anyone and have closed the criminal case altogether. She did not give any details of the yearlong probe. 

“With regard to Tegh, we have taken large-scale actions,” the country’s chief prosecutor told journalists. “If I’m not mistaken, there was a problem with border guards. No elements of a crime were confirmed as a result of the criminal proceedings.” 

Opposition leaders also hold Pashinian responsible for larger swathes of Armenian territory occupied by Azerbaijan in September 2022 and May 2021. They regularly accuse him of incompetence and failure to rebuild Armenia’s armed forces after the 2020 war in Karabakh. Pashinian blames the country’s former governments for its continuing security woes. 

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