Conversations on Groong - Jan 22, 2023
On January 19, 15 conscripts in the village of Azat, Armenia died in a fire that engulfed their temporary makeshift barracks.
Episode 214 | Recorded: January 22, 2023
Some time between 00:30 and 1:00 am on January 19th a fire broke out in a temporary military barracks housing a company of sappers in the Armenian Army, in Gegharkunik province. The fire quickly spread and as a result 15 men died, and 3 who escaped were severely injured. Our condolences to the families and loved ones and to the entire Armenian nation on this tragic loss.
The images released to the media show a shabby house in the Azat village, not what you’d expect for a military barracks. Various government representatives later explained that this house, which had one entrance and the windows had metal bars on them, was temporary and started being used as a barracks either after 2020, 2021 or September 2022 depending on whose account you want to trust.
That same morning, at the sitting of the government, Pashinyan, while admitting that the investigation is still ongoing, went ahead to confidently present the government’s official theory of how it happened. He said that the ranking officer of the unit had attempted to start the fire in the furnace using a 5L plastic canister of gasoline, which caught fire, causing the officer to instinctively throw the burning canister away from him and the entire room caught fire. Fifteen conscripts died and there were 3 survivors, including the captain of the unit, the one who allegedly started the fire.
Many are shocked seeing the footage from the destroyed structure. Everything from the structure itself, to the lack of an emergency exit, lack of fire extinguishers or a fire suppression system, safety protocols, everything seems to be absent, the whole structure is completely dilapidated.
This was not a barracks, it was a hut!!
Karen, according to opposition MPs, the 2022 defense budget was not fulfilled by 54%.
Karen, I know you frequently research how governments communicate and you have been vocal in the past that the Pashinyan administration is a master in shaping public debate through its communications.
We have two strange facts to bring up:
Edmon Marukyan, who has the title of “Special Ambassador At Large”, went on public TV to say that the Armenian Army was in the process of procuring brand-new Italian made, prefabricated military cabins. The reason they were not here yet? He said it was because they opted to buy brand new ones, instead of used ones that had already been used in Afghanistan.
At the government session, Immediately hours after the fire, Pashinyan and Papikyan announced the firing of at least 8 officers, up to and including the commander of the 2nd Army Corps. Critics claim that this effectively beheads the entire leadership chain of the 2nd Army Corps.
At the same time, many people were calling for political responsibility, but no political leaders were sacked or punished.
All right, that’s our show, we hope you found it useful. Please find us on Social Media and follow us everywhere you get your Armenian news, the links are in the show notes. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. We’ll talk to you soon!
Karen Vrtanesyan is an expert on military and warfare strategies with a focus on Armenia and its neighboring region. He is also co-founder of the website razm.info.
Asbed is founder of Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.
Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.