A week after the accident at the military shelter located in the Azat community of Gegharkunik region, as a result of which 15 servicemen were burnt alive and three were injured and hospitalized, the information provided by all parties contradicts each other.
Was there gasoline in the barracks area or not?
The official version of the barracks fire from January 19 to today remains the same: the captain on duty attempted to start a fire in the stove with gasoline. Nikol Pashinyan first presented this version on January 19.
“An attempt was made to open a five-liter jar and pour it into the oven. Naturally, not only the stove burned, but also the gasoline, the fire spread to the officer trying to light the stove, after which, according to preliminary data, based on self-defense instinct, that five-liter gasoline was thrown in the direction of the military unit’s shelter.”
On the same day, late in the evening, the Investigative Committee issued a statement reaffirming what Pashinyan described. “On January 19, 2023, around 00:40 am, he tried to light the stove with gasoline in a 5-liter plastic container. After filling the furnace with gasoline, a flame broke out, as a result of which the responsible captain, receiving burns, mechanically threw the container full of gasoline in his aside, which fell into the shelter,” reads the statement of the Investigative Committee.
This official version was questioned from the very first day. The commander of the troop platoon, in a conversation with journalists working on the spot, claimed that there is no gasoline in the area.
Six days after the incident, Garush Sargsyan, a conscript soldier who survived the barracks fire and is being treated at the Burns Center, however, stated that there was gasoline for tractors in the area. “They brought wood for us, after cutting it, we kept the sawdust, we added a couple of spoons of diesel fuel to it to start the fire.” – And was there gasoline in the area? – “There was in the area, it was for tractors.”
Did the soldiers wake up or remained asleep during the fire?
The other aspect discussed in relation to this incident is where and in what position the dead servicemen were found. In this case, the versions the official and the serviceman’s versions contradict each other.
The next day of the incident, on January 20, Arsen Saroyan, the Deputy Head of the National Emergency Management Center of the Rescue Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, claimed that 14 of the 15 servicemen were in bed. “Out of those 15 people, 14 were found on the beds, which means, it was not possible… I immediately assume that it is a hypothesis, but that’s how should have been: they didn’t wake up, just one person was found near the entrance, that is, he tried to save himself, but he couldn’t.” – he said.
Conscript soldier Garush Sargsyan, who survived the fire and is now being treated in the hospital, however, tells something else. According to him, they were sleeping in the shelter, he was woken up by noises, then he noticed how people were trying to break the door of the bedroom, which opens to the inside, but they could not. Garush says, they were weakend from the smoke. According to the soldier who came out of the accommodation through the bars of the window, there were no sleeping soldiers in the room at the time of the fire.
“To tell the truth, I didn’t notice anyone lying down at that moment, I don’t remember anyone lying down at that moment. I remember it was a messy situation, there were people who were pushing me and everyone was trying to get out, but they say that they were lying down in beds. I believe what I saw with my own eyes. I remember,” he said.
Since when have the soldiers been in those barracks?
Officials and servicemen also contradict each other regarding the period of time of deployment of soldiers.
“From May 13, 2021, the engineer sapper company of the N military unit of the RA Ministry of Defense has been stationed in one of the houses of the village of Azat, Gegharkunik region,” said the report of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Armenia of January 19.
On that day, Edmon Marukyan, the Special Ambassador of the RA Prime Minister, said on the air of the Public Television Company that the soldiers were stationed in that house in Azat village after the September attack of Azerbaijan on the territories of Armenia.
“After the attack, on September 13, when the military unit was blown up, instead of the military unit, the government ordered Italian modular military units. Naturally, what happened until now has its consequences, its reasons, i.e., why the soldiers were settled in the villages, in those houses: because the military unit was blown up during the attack of Azerbaijan,” Marukyan said.
Later, Edmon Marukyan clarified that he was not talking about that particular house located in the territory of Azat village, but about the general problem they faced after the September attack, when the soldiers had to move to their houses due to the explosion of the military unit.
But the spokesman of the Ministry of Defense, Aram Torosyan, announced that the soldiers were stationed there after the 44-day war. “The building has been slated as military accommodation since 2020, but has been occupied more frequently since 2021 until the completion of the permanent site in 2023.”
What were the conditions and amenities in the military accommodation?
On January 23, National Assembly Speaker Alen Simonyan announced in a briefing with journalists in the NA that the military accommodation was provided with all conveniences.
“They are provided with everything, except for the observance of safety norms, which were violated, as a result of which this incident happened,” said the Speaker of the National Assembly.
It is unclear what “provided with everything” means. It should be noted that the soldier who survived the fire stated that there were no conditions for extinguishing the fire in the shelter, because the intended liquid had been exhausted for a long time. Apart from this, the residence was not gasified and there was no water in the facility.
It is not known how long the public will continue to hear conflicting information about this event.