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Armenian PM Denies Contradictions In Comments About Fighter Jets Purchased From Russia

In a photo released by his press service on December 27, 2019, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is shown being briefed on the technical capabilities of Su-30SM fighter jets while sitting inside a cockpit.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has come under criticism for what the opposition says are lies and contradictory statements about why the Armenian military did not deploy fighter jets purchased from Russia during last year’s war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinian told parliament on March 24 that he saw no contradiction between his comments about why Armenia did not purchase missiles for its Russian Su-30SM fighter jets and his prewar statement on social media about the aircraft “successfully testing missiles.”

Pashinian said at a weekend rally that Yerevan purchased Russian Su-30SM fighters in May 2020 but did not manage to purchase missiles for them before the start of the 44-day war.

The prime minister’s press service and the Ministry of Defense announced in December 2019 that the Armenian Armed Forces had been “equipped with Su-30SM multifunctional fighters” and in July 2020 Pashinian wrote on Facebook that the Su-30SMs had “successfully tested missiles.”

Pashinian denied any contradictions between his answer to a question related to the purchase of the fighter jets and the test of missiles asked by a pro-government lawmaker in parliament on March 24.

He explained that since fighter aircraft are ultramodern and powerful, “it is obvious that manufacturers of aircraft and missiles of different modifications are not the same entities.”

“In other words, they are not produced in one place, and, therefore, are not purchased in one place,” he said.

“Unfortunately, during the war we did not have time to purchase all those necessary accessories...that would make it possible to use the ultramodern Su-30SMs for their intended purpose and in accordance with their power,” Pashinian said.

He said training flights were carried out after the Su-30SM fighter jets arrived in Armenia in May 2020 and missiles that were already in the Armenian military’s arsenal were used for the tests.

Specific military situation decisions on their use were made during the war in accordance with the extent to which the available ammunition allowed the aircraft to fulfill combat missions, he said.

Pashinian did not explain the discrepancy between the December 2019 press statement from his office showing photographs of him and then-Defense Minister David Tonoian at an airfield watching demonstration flights of Su-30SM fighters and boarding the cockpit of one of the aircraft, and his statement that the Su-30SM fighter jets had arrived in Armenia in May 2020.

Opposition Bright Armenia lawmaker Ani Samsonian seized on that, accusing Pashinian of lying.

“When will the government stop lying, manipulating, and misleading the public?” she asked.

The prime minister did not answer the opposition lawmaker’s question. His deputy, Tigran Avinian, said: “A full answer on Su-30SM aircraft was given. There is nothing to add.”

Earlier this month, Pashinian effectively retracted his claim that the Armenian Army’s most advanced Russian-made Iskander missiles seriously malfunctioned during the war. The retraction came after a storm of criticism from Russian pro-government lawmakers and pundits, who accused him of incompetence and deceit.