None of the families of at least 198 Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers killed during the last Azerbaijani military offensive has received financial compensation from the Armenian government.
Armenian law entitles the family of a soldier killed in action to a one-off payment of 10 million drams ($25,000) and monthly benefits worth around 250,000 drams ($615). The closest relatives of Karabakh Armenian military personnel have also been eligible for this compensation paid by the Soldiers’ Insurance Fund.
The state fund, also known as Zinapah, said on Thursday that it has still not compensated the families of the fallen Karabakh soldiers because it has not received mandatory documents certifying that they died in combat situations.
The law requires that paperwork to be done by the commanders of army units that suffer combat casualties. Karabakh’s Defense Army was disbanded as a result of Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 offensive that restored Azerbaijani control over the region and forced its population to flee to Armenia.
In a statement to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Zinapah said there are now no other bodies that can submit valid documents needed for the compensations. Armenian government agencies are “working” to overcome this legal hurdle, it said without elaborating.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said, for its part, that it is looking into potential alternative mechanisms for unblocking the badly needed financial aid and could propose legal amendments if it does not find any.
Gegham Stepanian, Karabakh’s exiled human rights ombudsman, countered that the Armenian authorities had enough time to draft and enact such amendments by now. He suggested that they are reluctant to do that for political reasons.
Many of the Karabakh soldiers killed in the two-day heavy fighting with Azerbaijani forces were the main breadwinners of their families that are now struggling to make ends meet in Armenia.
They include the mother, the wife and three young children of Gagik Hakobian, a 39-year-old warrant officer who died on September 20 while defending the eastern Karabakh village of Harav. Their only source of income now is 200,000 drams in monthly housing compensation paid by the government.
They spend at least three-quarters of it on a small apartment rented by them in a village 20 kilometers south of Yerevan. Hakobian’s widow Vilena is now looking for a job while still hoping to qualify for the military compensation scheme.
“Nobody has visited us to ask how we support the kids,” said Hakobian’s mother Nargiz. “It’s tough.”