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Vova Vartanov: “Give me all your weapons, we can return some territory”

Yerevan/16.02.19/Turan: “At the very beginning of the Karabakh conflict in 1988, I was among those who rallied in the square, but then I realized that this was not enough and we had to act. Then my aunt and her husband’s relatives lived in Azerbaijan, and I had to take them by bus via Georgia. Later, in 1989, after the arrest of members of the “Karabakh” committee, I was offered to go to the border with Azerbaijan and organize self-defense units taking into account my military experience, since I served with the special purpose troops of the General Intelligence Agency (GIA). “The participant of the Karabakh war, the commander of the first Armenian reconnaissance detachment Vova Vartanov told about it in an interview with Turan.

“In November-December 1989, we assembled the first in-depth reconnaissance detachment and conducted the first operation in January 1990 in the Gazakh region of Azerbaijan. I will keep silence about other operations,” he says, confirming that he participated in various operations and military operations, the information of which he does not want to disclose.

In January 1992, the formation of combat detachments began, which in the future became part of the Armenian army. I then acted as an adviser and at the same time was a member of the special squad under the commander of the Armenian forces, and in fact the Minister of Defense Vazgen Sargsyan. Our task was tactical and strategic military intelligence.

When asked to disclose the contents of one of the military operations, Vartanov, after deliberation, said that his group had penetrated into Gazakh district in January 1990 in order to verify information on the removal of ammunition from the Soviet army. “According to the official version, Soviet troops took ammunition and weapons to Georgia. But we got into Gazakh and found that the ammunition from Armenia was transported to Azerbaijan, to warehouses a dozen kilometers from Gazakh,” said the source.

Why is it today that it is preparing young people for hostilities, the ability to survive, and teaches the need to fight with Azerbaijan? To this question, Vartanov replies that he and his comrades organized survival courses, which, among other things, have a military purpose: handling cold and firearms, survival tactics in extreme conditions, including urban ones.

On a clarifying question whether his pupils will participate in a possible war with Azerbaijan, Vartanov said that they had already participated in the April 2016 war. “My supporters participated as volunteers in the battles in the south and north of Karabakh and showed themselves well and helped stop the advancement of the Azerbaijani forces,” he said. The Armenian side called the April battles “blitzkrieg”, and some “reconnaissance in force.” Is such an assessment correct? Our interlocutor disagrees with these assessments, considering those events as “rather a political action” in order to put pressure on the Armenian side.

“I am sure that the Azerbaijani side wanted to pull away the forces of the center in Karabakh to the north to the village of Talysh and to the south to Lala Tepe. Having pulled the forces of the center, the Azerbaijani side planned an attack on Agdam and further on Askeran. However, a sufficient number of our forces in the central direction did not allow the enemy to carry out this plan,” says Vartanov.

How does he evaluate the current fighting efficiency of the Azerbaijani army? “To be honest, I seriously appreciate it. The amount of money you spend on the army could not help but bring results. You have a good army – normal weapons, training. I like it, but there is a problem with motivation,” said the source.

On the question of how he assesses the combat capability of the Armenian army, Vartanov says that even if Armenians do not have such modern weapons, and they are fewer than Azerbaijan. Even if the training is not the same as that of the Azerbaijani side, Armenians have enough weapons and control over the heights remains. “And this is important to stop not only your army, but also the Ottoman. I have already talked about motivation. How does it differ from Armenians and Azerbaijanis? Your motivation is hurt because you won the war, despite the numerical superiority, but we have a desire to survive,” said Vartanov.

According to him, the Armenian Armed Forces did not participate in the battles in Karabakh, as they expected the offensive of the Turkish army and prepared to repel it. “It was real in 1992-93,” says Vartanov.

How, then, to explain that after the signing a truce in 1994, during the battles of 1995 and 2016 and in the Nakhchivan sector, Armenians only retreated and lost territories? Why, if their motivation is stronger?

Our interlocutor explains this by the repeated superiority of the Azerbaijani forces when the brigade attacks the company. “This can only be at the beginning. This is the advantage of the one who attacks first; but then the motivation and training of the troop”s works.

I was against frontal attacks on those points that we surrendered to you in April 2016 in order to avoid casualties. It was possible to take in another place where you did not wait and offer an exchange. But the Armenian leadership refused this idea and executed the order received from Moscow,” says

Isn’t it better to reach an agreement with Azerbaijan, liberate the territories around Karabakh and get something in return, improve relations and develop normally? After all, if the new war and the Armenians lose territory, they will hardly get anything in return. Is there a similar scenario in Armenia?

Vartanov responded that of course peace is better than war. “But I do not agree that any peace is better than war. If you take these lands, you will not stop there. There is Armenia, which does not allow you to connect with Turkey, and you are going to take Yerevan,” says Vartanov.

To the remark what people in Armenia talks about the need to take Ganja and the land to Kura, raise Talyshs and Lezghins and create a federation in Azerbaijan, our interlocutor responds that in Azerbaijan it is necessary to create a federation like Switzerland consisting of national cantons.

“This will allow you not to be aggressors. Why is autonomy not for Armenians, but not for Talysh, Lezgins and Avars? You had the only option to attract the Armenians of Karabakh to remain in Azerbaijan, becoming a federal state,” said Vartanov.

To the question what is the incompatibility of Armenians and Azerbaijanis, he answers that there is a different mentality. “You have a nomad mentality, but we are sedentary. Therefore, it is difficult for us to get along,” he specifies.

Was it worth starting the Karabakh movement, taking into account the tragedy that befell the two peoples? Is not it better to find a common language and solve all problems peacefully?

Vartanov does not agree with the opinion that the actions for the secession of Karabakh were initiated by the Armenian intelligentsia and turned into a separatist movement with the connivance of Moscow. In his opinion, there were no prospects for Armenians in Azerbaijan. “How was it possible to get along, how could Karabakh people not demand secession from Azerbaijan, taking into account the fate of the Armenians of Nakhchivan? You know that when the Nakhchivan autonomy was created, a significant Armenian population existed on this territory. “And where are they now?” asks Vartanov.

I have already asked my question to this: then half of the population of Yerevan were Azerbaijanis, not to mention the significant Azerbaijani population of all of Armenia, and where are they now?

To this, Vartanov says that from the 17th century, “Armenian territory” was settled by Shah Abbas, who evicted Armenians from here and settled it with Turks. Armenians tried to return, but a massive return happened only after the Russian-Turkish and Russian-Persian wars in the 19th century, the First World War and the events of 1915.

After that, there was a wave of the Armenian population, which, according to the Stalin plan, was to be settled in the 1940s with the Soviet army in eastern Turkey. This is how the percentage of the population in Armenia changed, he says.

What was the reason for the movement of the Armenians of Ottoman Turkey in the 19th and 20th centuries, who set a goal to create their own state in eastern Turkey?

According to Vartanov, the reason was the oppression of the Armenian population by the Ottoman government, the attitude towards Armenians and Christians as disloyal citizens. “And in general, the savagery of the Turkish authorities,” he says.

Enver Pasha was encircled during the First World War battles and he was rescued by units manned by Armenians, nevertheless he declared all Armenians traitors for the fact that Armenian volunteer guards had gone over to Russia. “Or maybe it was just a reason to clear the land, rob?”, – continues Vartanov.

If Armenians are deserting, moving to the side of the enemy and fighting against their state, what did they expect from the Turkish authorities? To this question, Vartanov says that deserters should be arrested and tried, “but what”s the point, women and children?” According to him, there were no less deserters among the Kurds and Arabs, but there were no repressions against their population, but only against Armenians and Assyrians.

That is, the Armenians did not give a special reason for persecution. Our interlocutor responds to this: “The deserter gave a reason, and for this the people were punished. Is this fair?”

Similar things happened in 1988, when unarmed and innocent Armenian citizens suffered and died. Just because someone, somewhere, did something. “This happened many times,” says Vartanov.

Being asked if it means that the Armenians did not committed any illegal actions against Azerbaijanis, Vartanov modestly replies, “I don”t know, maybe it was.” “But there were no wild things, like in Baku, in Sumgayit,” he assures.

When asked about the massacres of Azerbaijanis in Gugark, he stated that there was nothing like that. “Name at least one last name,” he says. The remark that the prosecutors and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR conducted an investigation of these cases, which confirmed numerous murders of Azerbaijanis, our interlocutor bypasses, demanding to present the registered facts of the violent death of Azerbaijanis in Gugark. At the same time, he said that he knows a couple of cases of beatings of Azerbaijanis in Armenia.

When asked whether this means that Armenians did not commit war crimes against Azerbaijanis, he says, “I”m sure that they did, because it was impossible to control everyone. I am sure that there were acts that can be called military crimes. But we did not have crimes against the civilian population,” says Vartanov.

If tomorrow is war again, will his pupils fight, those Armenians who go to Armenia and study in his military camps? Vartanov replies, “Everyone will fight.” Would not it be better to make peace by returning a part of the territories and improve relations with Azerbaijan? Vartanov replied that this is impossible. “Which area can be changed and what for? None.

To give Kalbajar means suicide. It means separating us and being able to destroy individually. We will not do this nonsense. Gubadly, Lachin, Zangelan – the same.

Gubadly, Jebrail, Fizuli – this is the valley of the Kura River, if we return them- this will give you the opportunity to maneuver large forces of armored vehicles, infantry, artillery, covering Karabakh from the flank. If we return Fizuli, you will reach a place where you can shoot at Karabakh with the most primitive shells, the same thing is Agdam,” says Vartanov.

You mean that the Armenians will not return anything around Karabakh. Vartanov said: “Something can be returned in exchange for all your armored vehicles – 560 tanks, all your artillery and missiles, and we can give you something,” said Vartanov without specifying exactly what he meant.

When asked what percentage of Armenians also think, the interlocutor responds – 85%. -02B-


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