Fourteen journalists from Armenia recently visited frontline units of the Artsakh Defense Forces. This was due to an agreement reached between Hetq and the Artsakh Ministry of Defense.
After our tour, we also had the opportunity to meet with Defense Minister Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobyan. We posed the following questions to him.
Minister Hakobyan, what must be done to guarantee the safety of the airport due to open in Stepanakert?
There’s no fear that it will operate safely. Azerbaijan can employ anti-air defense means to bring down a plane landing in Yerevan. The airport has been built so that planes land and take off in our territory. If Azerbaijan would ever try to shoot the plane down, our anti-missile defense system could neutralize the threat. I will be the first one on the flight to Yerevan.
The airport is ready and the airplane has been purchased. We’ll start off with the one plane and see what the demand is like.
You noted that there were eleven army deaths in 2011, but the number of suicides was also alarming. What’s your view on this trend?
Truly, suicides cause us pain. The army is a place where there is constant inspections and monitoring. Sadly, such incidents still occur. The main reason is to be found in those who commit suicide.
It’s not acceptable to tell lies within the youth. If a person tells a lie, just once, all his friends know about it. The liar becomes a second-class person. We still haven’t been able to find the correct moment to tell them that such is not the case. Like the Armenian Church says, each person has the right to make mistakes and be forgiven. Perhaps, we are lacking in this regard.
Secondly, oftentimes soldiers prefer to take their own lives rather than suffer pain. This is unacceptable and the result of the officer oversight.
What problems do soldiers bring to your attention the most?
Mostly with personal problems. I sometimes get up to 200 telephone calls per day. Many call up asking for a leave of absence. I do not deal with these issues. It’s the purview of the officers down the line of command.
What’s your opinion of the OSCE Minsk Group’s activities and their statements pertaining to the return of territories?
I will not comment on their activities. It’s not my jurisdiction to do so. It’s the job of the country’s president and I don’t think he would assume the right of changing the constitution. That document was accepted by the people and the Karabakh conflict will be settled by the people. The borders of Artsakh are enshrined in the constitution and nobody has the right to change it.
How does the army respond to ceasefire violations committed by Azerbaijan?
We respond in a very forceful and decisive manner. We punish the enemy to the point that they understand that such acts are impossible. If even one of our soldiers is injured, rest assured that we will hit several of theirs. We will hit back until the Azerbaijani press covers the matter. We show no forgiveness.
Recently, Baku staged a military parade, showing off its potential strengths. The triple Artsakh holiday of May 9 will soon be upon us. Will the Artsakh Defense Forces use it as an occasion to respond in kind? What are your feelings of the arms race in general?
I take a dim view of the arms race because it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. More arms lead to a greater chance of hostilities breaking out.
The Armenian side is taking steps to put an end to this arms race. On May 9, we want to show where we have reached in the past five years and the current state of our army. Such a show of force also raises the spirits of our soldiers,
The raw power of the Artsakh forces will be on display and our combat preparedness.