Former defence minister of Nagorno-Karabakh arrested in Armenia

31 August 2022
Mikael Arzumanyan during the 2016 clashes. Image via USC Institute of Armenian Studies.

Armenian authorities have arrested the former Defence Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, Mikael Arzumanyan, for ‘negligence’ during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

According to the Investigative Committee of Armenia, Arzumanyan ‘showed a negligent attitude to his official duties’ during the battle for Shusha (Shushi) from 30 October–9 November 2020, ‘carrying them out improperly’. 

The committee accused Arzumanyan of causing the loss of the city and adjacent areas, leading to heavy casualties on the Armenian side. 

According to their report, Arzumanyan failed to ‘ensure effective use of combat capabilities of troops and successful completion of tasks within the prescribed time, did not control the implementation of the tasks, and did not provide necessary assistance and did not demonstrate firmness and determination in the fulfilment of the tasks set’.

Arzumanyan faces up to 13 years in prison if convicted.

Lusine Avanesyan, the spokesperson of the President of Nagorno-Karabakh, said that President Arayik Harutyunyan was not informed about the arrest in advance, adding that he was ‘following developments’. 

‘The President considers General Arzumanyan one of our best military commanders who has a glorious past’, Avanesyan said. ‘His efforts during the 2020 war are also undeniable. It is true that he took command of the army only 12 days before the end of the war, but he made great efforts to conduct military operations effectively’.


Arzumanyan was appointed in late October 2020, after his predecessor Jalal Harutynyan, was wounded when a military vehicle he was travelling in was blown up. 

A ceasefire was agreed on 9 November, after Armenian forces completely lost control of Shusha and the adjacent area. 

The war left over 3,800 dead from the Armenian side and around 3,000 from Azerbaijan. Almost 300 Armenian civilians and soldiers are still considered missing.

Arzymanyan resigned almost a year after the war, and was appointed chief adviser to President Harutyunyan. 

Since then, a number of military officers, including high-ranking officials, have been implicated in criminal cases concerning the war. 

The former minister of Defence of Armenia, Davit Tonoyan, is currently standing trial for alleged corruption in pre-war arms deals, which prosecutors say provided the army with inefficient weapons.

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.