“The commander did not kill my child personally, but his order led the children to death”

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– Mom dear, there will be a war. Even if I am demobilized and return [home], one day the war will start, it is inevitable, I will come back here regardless of everything. And, if I am killed suddenly, do not cry: one must die like Robert Abajyan.

Artashes Khalatyan had this conversation with his mother on September 20, before the war.

Artashes

Artashes was a very sensitive and brave boy, with great sense of humor. He was drafted on December 19, 2019. At the beginning, he served in Etchmiadzin, in the regiment of engineers. After training as sapper for 6 months, he moved to Agarak, Meghri. The last time we saw him was on the day of the swearing-in ceremony. He did not complain about the service at all.

The war started

– We are a difficult muster.

– Why do you say that?

– Well, 19 is a very unfortunate number: we were drafted on December 19, I am 19 years old, COVID-19 ․․․ I do not know.

He put a number of things together and, this way, tried to prepare us somehow through humor.

On September 30, he called and said, “Dad, we are being taken to Jabrail for two days, we have to mine, there is something to help.” Two days became a week; during that time we talked constantly, he shared with me everything, but still left certain things in their mold so that they would not be known from him.

I was aware of the general situation. I told him, “If you are going to die, die with spirit, remember, the bullet does not touch the brave ones, it touches the coward during the war; that is why whatever you will be doing, do it bravely”.

On October 8, he made a video call. We asked, “What happened? Where is your weapon?” He did not have his body armor on. “Well, there is no need, it is trown over there: the weapon is like a sling gere; we have nothing to do.” And he was constantly looking at the sky․ They were the unmanned aerial vehicles. The last time he talked to his uncle, it was on October 9․

– Uncle, I’m going. I’m very excited… If I come back, I’ll call you.

– You have never said such a thing in your life; why do you say “if”?

– I cannot tell you․ If I come, I will call.

“Sappers’ car burned down”

On the night of the 10th of the month, we learned that the car of the Meghri sappers had been hit. We no longer recieved a call. I realized that something was wrong. And we tried to find, we involved many people, but we did could not get an answer. Then, by a chance, we found out: they were listing the names on TV. The commander ordered to get in the car “Ural”, the children did that. Five minutes later the car was hit, and all 17 boys burned.

Everyone can confirm that no one there recognized or saw their child: they were burned. We found out through the DNA analysis. They explained to me that it takes 7-14 days until they know the DNA results, but they give the results to us just in four days, and they did it by phone; they did not even give us the document.

The criminal case

If the father of one of the children, Harut, was not there, this trace would be lost, everything would be closed and ignored. At first, when we were searching, they said that eight of the sappers were rescued; the half of them were in one place, the other half – in another. Then some time passed until Harut filed the complaint. Now a judicial process is going on normally, the judge is ready and takes this issue seriously.

I think very bad things about the incident․ According to the preliminary investigation, even the sappers were talking about fleeing, leaving the field. But if a soldier were fleeing, how could he carry out the order of a scoundrel? Or, if there were an issue of fleeing, first of all Harutyun Ohanyan’s son would flee with his father.

Veranyan did not kill my child as a murderer; naturally, the Turk killed him. But by his order he took the children to death: these are different things. He is the same murderer, the slayer.

We demand a fair trial from the court, without bias. But ,no matter what, we will not stop: he must receive the punishment he deserves. The best option is to serve his sentence within the law.

Ani Torosyan