Bill in Armenia proposes formation of ‘militia’ to ‘repel potential attacks’
A bill on forming a militia, developed by the Ministry of Defense, has become a hot topic of conversation in Armenia.
It was published on e-draft.am, where the public is given the opportunity to preliminarily review and discuss legal acts following the July military escalation on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Deputy Defense Minister Gabriel Balayan explained to reporters why it was necessary to create an “Armenian model of the militia”:
“Our capabilities have changed, as well as our ideas about how to defend the country, we have accumulated experience, and the regional situation has changed.”
Why exactly the defense ministry was compelled to create this structure becomes clear after reading the preamble of the bill. It states:
“Studying the enemy’s potential moves shows us that the center of their military operations can be shifted inland through the widespread use of diversion, terrorism, reconnaissance or special operations”.
In this regard, the militia will be charged with the mission of “protecting the territory, population, key facilities and infrastructure from possible enemy attacks”.
Volunteers up to 70 years of age can join the militia if they meet the physical fitness requirements – including women. They will undergo periodic military training, and after being drafted they will be able to enjoy the same social security and benefits as the military.
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Details about the bill
Deputy Defense Minister Gabriel Balayan said that they plan on accepting up to 100,000 citizens into the militia:
“This is an exclusively Armenian model. We, of course, have studied the experience of other countries, but we believe that today, the bill we have developed is the best possible option and dissimilar from others. The purpose of creating a militia is to increase the effectiveness of citizens’ participation in defending their homeland, if the need arises”.
The bill has been available to the public since August 24 and experts are already voicing their opinions. In particular, they expressed concern about whether citizens would be openly carrying guns in the street. And the deputy minister replied:
“Nowhere is it written that we are planning to distribute weapons to people who will then carry them in the streets…Of course, those who will be enrolled in the militia will undergo a certain training and will be trained to use weapons, but they will receive them only when taking part in certain operations”.
Gabriel Balayan also said that the ministry of defense plans to involve women in the militia, as “we are not planning to discriminate”. But at the first stage they will be offered only “non-combat missions”.
The militia’s mission
The militia may be used to defend the borders, fight against sabotage or reconnaissance groups, protect important facilities or buildings, and mobilizing a civil defense.
The militia will consist of military brigades and battalions. Recruitments and operations will take place on a local scale, meaning according to the country’s administrative divisions.
The general leadership of the battalions will be entrusted to the Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces. Their peacetime and wartime commanders will be the heads of local self-government bodies, but in Yerevan it will be the vice-mayor.
Those who voluntarily join the militia will sign an agreement. They will be assigned weapons, issued uniforms, assigned certain positions, and undergo appropriate training.
Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan explained that “the creation of the people’s militia is not connected solely to the danger of large-scale war. This step is intended to ensure society’s readiness to respond to various military challenges and threats”.