“Innocent eighteen-year-olds were used as meat, as cannon fodder”

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On April 14, it was the 40th day after passing away of Norik Vardanyan, an 18-year-old participant in the 44-day war. The remains of the soldier who served only two months could be found and identified by DNA testing only about five months after the end of the war, on March 1, 2021.

Norik was drafted from the village of Shahumyan of the Ararat region. This village, as a result of the war, has 9 victims, 13 wounded, 2 missing persons. Norik Vardanyan was serving in Martuni 3. Hwas one of the 73 soldiers who disappeared and were killed during the war while moving to Hadrut.

The soldier’s mother, Armine Amiryan, tells us that, during the war, her son regularly called his family. “On October 10, he called and said, ‘Mom, if I can’t call, don’t be upset.’ I asked, ‘My dear, why?’ He said that they were going here and there and doing some work, so he would call whenever possible. After that day, the connection with my child was lost… I kept calling the officer, asking about whereabouts of my child, he said he was in the bunker. I said, I understand that they are not available [for phone calls] in the bunkers, but for how long? We called so many times that they [finally] said they were lost, that no traces of them were found…”

The soldier’s family applied to the embassies, to all possible institutions, sent photos of the soldier everywhere to figure out if anything might be found out, if their son could be among the POWs. “On March 1, they called and said that DNA had confirmed that… he was my son, my only son, he is no more, my child is no more, there is no one to open the door now, we are left alone,” says Norik’s mother.

It became known yesterday that the former commander of the Artsakh Defense Army, Lieutenant General Jalal Harutyunyan was interrogated as a witness in the criminal case initiated in connection with this incident.

On February 13, Major General Karen Arustamyan, Commander of the 18th Rifle Division of the Defense Army, was charged under Article 375, Part 4 of the RA Criminal Code (inaction of the government during the war).

The course of the criminal case, however, does not satisfy the parents of the victims. Armine Amiryan says that they give the authorities a week to punish the guilty. Otherwise, the parents will take extreme measures.

Norik’s grandfather Arsen Amiryan cannot come to terms with the cruel fate of his only grandson. “The leaders must suffer a thousand times more pain than the thousands of victims and wounded. That’s all I want from God. They used those eighteen-year-old children as meat, as cannon fodder. If they were their children, would they behave like that? I am in pain. All parents are in pain. Nobody would open our doors, see what they can do to help, with a psychologist… give hope, say something… They used the innocent children, used the servicemen of only two months as cannon fodder for their own benefit. They will receive God’s punishment. Regardless of who they are; the ministers, deputies, Pashinyan, Anna Hakobyan [Prime Minister Pashinyan’s wife]. I spat on them. We have no leadership,” he says.

Ani Gevorgyan

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