Nikol Pashinyan’s remarks on why Russian-made Iskander ballistic missiles did not explode during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have sparked a controversy over the efficiency of the missiles.
After suffering a heavy loss of territory in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to Azerbaijan, pressure on Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has steadily been building.
The prime minister has also warned the international community that a 'military coup' is in the making after members of the country's armed forces said he should resign.
Earlier, former President Serzh Sargsyan criticised the Pashinyan government by asking why Russian-made Iskander short-range missiles were not fired on the third or fourth day of the war.
Recently, Pashinyan was asked about Sargsyan’s comments over Iskander ballistic missiles in a special interview with Armenia’s 1in.am channel.
When asked why the Iskander missile did not explode - or why it exploded only by 10 percent - Pashinyan responded by arguing that the Russian missiles were probably outdated.
“Maybe it was a weapon of the 80s?” he said.
"The rejected person should not ask questions, the answers to which he knows,” he added in an apparent jab at Sargsyan.
Armenia first demonstrated the Iskander mobile missile complex during a military parade dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Armenia's independence in 2016.
Former Minister of Defence Seyran Ohanyan said the missiles were obtained towards the end of his tenure in 2015.
"I do not think it is possible. What does it mean that the missiles were used by 10% or they exploded by 10 percent?” Ohanyan told Azatutyun.
"Those questions should be asked to him (Pashinyan), but I think that he is not the specialist, he is a very distant person to draw conclusions about them."
On the other hand, Former Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Artak Davtyan, said: "If there were technical problems, of course it would not be accepted. You should turn to specialists for professional questions.”
Questions over the efficiency of the Iskander missile have drawn strong criticism from the Russians.
Senior members of Russia’s Duma, the lower house of parliament, attacked Pashinyan.
For example, Viktor Zavarzin, the deputy chairman of a State Duma committee on defence and security, said: “The Iskander is a highly precise weapon, which has repeatedly been proved during military exercises.”
Zavarzin defines Pashinyan’s remarks about the missile as a “complete lie.”
Russian military expert Viktor Murakhovsky immediately accused Pashinyan, asking him “where his fantasies have come from," over his comments on the Iskander missile.
"The Iskanders were not used during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and they made no launches,” Murakhovsky claimed.
However, video footage was revealed on social media showing Armenia firing Iskander ballistic missiles at Azerbaijan in November.
Video of the Armenian Iskander launch pic.twitter.com/keTt7IT2MG— Fabian Hinz (@fab_hinz) November 9, 2020
The Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces on February 24, however, admits that Armenia used the Iskander ballistic missile after being denied earlier by the Armenian Prime Minister.
"Pashinyan categorically forbade, saying that the world community would curse us if we kill several thousand enemy soldiers at once. The only time I was allowed to use the Iskander was in the city of Shusha. I used it. We took advantage of this and managed to bring several tanks into the city. Two days later, an order came to me - to leave Shusha and retreat."