Nagorno-Karabakh’s President Arayik Harutyunyan has dismissed Russian–Armenian billionaire Ruben Vardanyan as state minister.
Announcing the decision during a televised cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Harutyunyan said that he and Vardanyan had ‘strategic’ differences in their approaches to internal and external issues.
‘I am grateful to Mr Vardanyan for the fact that he always tried to share responsibilities with me to the maximum extent in both a friendly and professional way’, Harutyunan said, adding that Vardanyan did not ‘try to put [responsibility] on me by referring to the constitutional norms’.
‘But on the other hand, he was aware and understanding of the scope and extent of my personal responsibility for the situation created in Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] and all future problems’.
‘No one hurts more than I do because of this decision’, Harutyunyan said.
The move comes as Nagorno-Karabakh grapples with food and energy shortages caused by the blockade of the Lachin Corridor. Earlier on Thursday, the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to reopen the road, the only route connecting the region with Armenia.
[Read more on OC Media: ICJ orders Azerbaijan to unblock Lachin Corridor]
Vardanyan’s appointment in November 2022 was met with controversy from the outset, with questions arising over his links to Russia and the Russian Government.
His short-lived stint as state minister also saw the powers of his office expand significantly.
Azerbaijani officials have repeatedly railed against his appointment, claiming he was working directly for Russia.
During a panel at the Munich Security Conference last week, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev vowed that Azerbaijan would start direct dialogue with the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, but would not talk with Ruben Vardanyan, who he said had been ‘exported’ from Russia.
Vardanyan was appointed two months after he renounced his Russian citizenship and moved to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Shortly after his appointment, a group of Azerbaijanis claiming to be eco-activists blocked the Lachin Corridor purportedly to protest mining in the region.
Vardanyan, whose estate is estimated to be worth around $1 billion, is a popular figure in Armenia. As an inventor and philanthropist, he co-founded the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an award given to those ‘helping the most destitute’ on behalf of survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
The current General Prosecutor of Nagorno-Karabakh, Gurgen Nersisyan, has been offered the role of state minister in Vardanyan’s place.
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.