A dispute over the effectiveness of Russian-made Iskander missiles is accused of a dangerous rift between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and the country’s military rulers.
This is the Iskander missile system, pictured during an exercise at the Kasputin Yar rocket test site in Russia in 2018. The Iskander missiles were developed by Russia and entered service for the first time in the army of that country in 2006.
The missiles weigh 3.8 tons each and can fly at a speed of about 2.1 kilometers per second, nearly three times the speed of a bullet from an AK-47 assault rifle.
The Iskander is capable of firing several different missiles, including a cruise variant.
Moscow says the maximum range of all Iskander missiles used by Russia is 500 kilometers – the maximum allowed under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Washington which was in effect until 2019.
In early 2016, Armenia became the first country to buy Iskanders from Russia, purchasing at least four of the missile systems at an estimated cost of between $ 70 million and $ 100 million.
Export versions of the Iskander have a claimed range of 280 kilometers, putting almost all targets in Azerbaijan within range of Armenian-owned missiles, although notably the launchers would apparently need to enter the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh to be able to strike The capital of Azerbaijan, Baku.
both Russian and Azerbaijani officials claimed that there was no evidence that Armenia used Iskander missiles during the 2020 conflict. This appears to have been contradicted by statements from Armenian military officials and a widely shared video in which Armenian soldiers applaud this that they suggest it was a missile fired at Azerbaijan in the last days of this escalation of the conflict.
After much criticism of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s handling of the war, ex-President Serge Sarkissian (pictured above) told an interviewer that Pashinian did not effectively use the powerful Iskander systems of the ‘Armenia.
Pashinian (pictured) responded on Feb.23, telling an interviewer, ‘Let [Sarkisian] ask why the fired Iskander didn’t explode or why it exploded by, say, 10%. Then, in an unusual beard apparently referring to the 2016 comments Sarkisian made about obsolete military equipment, Pashinian added, “Maybe [the Iskander] is a weapon from the 1980s.
The cryptic remarks contributed to a political storm in Armenia that escalated when senior defense official Tiran Khachatrian (pictured) allegedly “laughed for a long time” at Iskander’s comments from Pashinian, calling them “not serious”. Pashinian responded by relieving Khachatrian, who had recently been awarded the title of Hero of Armenia for his role in the 2020 fighting, of his command.
In apparent response to the gunfire, more than 40 senior Armenian army officers on February 25 called on Pashinian to resign. The struggling prime minister called the move an “attempted coup” and rallied thousands of his supporters in Yerevan as a smaller group of counter-protesters gathered nearby. Protests in the Armenian capital continued on February 26.