At headquarters of Karabakh Defense Army in April 1994. Image grab from Yerkrapah video.
At headquarters of Karabakh Defense Army in April 1994. Image grab from Yerkrapah video.

A video filmed in April 1994 and released by Armenia’s Yerkrapah veterans’ union offers a unique look into operational planning towards the end of the Karabakh war.

The meeting is led by Samvel Babayan, the Karabakh Defense Army commander and just 29-years-old at the time. A controversial figure after the war, Babayan emerged as a key critic of the Armenian government after the April 2016 war. On November 29, 2017 Babayan was sentenced to a 6-year prison term on conspiracy charges.

On his right is Movses Hakobyan, then Martuni defense district commander, later the Karabakh Defense Army commander (2007-15) and current chief of staff of the Armenian armed forces.

On Babayan’s left is Vitaly Balasanyan, then Askeran defense district commander; in 2012 he was a candidate for Nagorno Karabakh presidency and since 2016 national security secretary under President Bako Sahakyan. Next to Balasanyan is Vachagan Ishkhanyan and Artur Aghabekyan, commanders of Shushi and Hadrut defense districts, respectively. Ishkhanyan died in 2013; Aghabekyan recently retired from the post of Karabakh’s deputy prime minister. Current Karabakh president Bako Sahakyan, then the army’s logistics chief, can be seen among the men seating in the back, near the windows.

The bald man across the table from Babayan is general Khristofor Ivanyan. Born in Tbilisi, Ivanyan served in the WWII and retired from the Soviet military in the 1980s. In 1992, 72-years-old Ivanyan arrived in Karabakh and became a volunteer advisor to the army. The meeting is conducted mostly in the Russian language for Ivanyan’s benefit. Ivanyan passed away in 1999.

To Ivanyan’s left is Seyran Ohanyan, subsequent Defense Army commander (2000-2007) and Armenia’s defense minister (2008-16). Ohanyan is followed by Samvel Karapetyan, then commander of Central Defense District and currently deputy commander of the Karabakh army. Late arrival to the meeting who sits down next to Karapetyan is Manvel Grigoryan, then commander of the 5th brigade comprising volunteer units from Armenia; Grigoryan is currently a member of parliament and head of the Yerkrapah. The picture on the wall is of Monte Melkonyan, the Armenian American volunteer and commander who was killed in combat in June 1993.

The discussion is focused on the last Armenian offensive of the war in April 1994 that helped secure the May 12, 1994 cease-fire. The push focused on the area between the villages of Talish, Madagis and Seysulan in the northeast of Nagorno Karabakh, all three of which were recaptured at the time. Incidentally, 22 years later, much of the April 2016 fighting took place this same area.

More than 23 years later, Balasanyan, Hakobyan, Karapetyan and Sahakyan could be seen around the table during the Karabakh Defense Army operational briefing on December 1, 2017.