Protesters Demand Hand-Over of Russian Soldier to Armenia

Hundreds protest and demand the extradition of Russian soldier to Armenia


GYUMRI, Armenia (RFE/RL)—More than 1,000 furious residents of Gyumri marched through Armenia’s second largest city on Wednesday to demand that a Russian soldier accused of killing six members of a local family be handed over to Armenian law-enforcement authorities.

The protest began with a procession of cars that drove around the city and stopped by key government and security buildings as well as the Russian consulate there. The protesters went on to walk towards the Gyumri headquarters of a Russian military base in Armenia where the soldier, Valery Permyakov, has been kept since being caught on Monday.

After scuffling with Armenian security forces, they broke through a police cordon to approach the base’s main checkpoint located in the city’s outskirts. The protesters were stopped there by more lines of riot police and about two dozen Russian soldiers standing behind them. Organizers of the protest pleaded with the mostly male and young crowd not to clash with them.

A senior Armenian prosecutor arrived at the scene later in the day in a bid to ease tensions. He urged the crowd to demonstrate elsewhere in Gyumri.

The demonstrators reluctantly agreed to disperse. But they gave the Armenian and Russian authorities until Thursday evening to ensure Permyakov’s extradition or face more protests.

Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said on Tuesday that it is “not discussing” Permyakov’s handover with Russian military officials because Russia’s constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian nationals to foreign states. It made no reference to a 1997 treaty regulating the Russian military presence in Armenia.

The treaty stipulates that Russian military personnel in the South Caucasus suspected of committing crimes outside their installations shall be dealt with by Armenian law-enforcement and judicial authorities.

The prosecutors’ explanation angered many Armenians who fear that the Russian military will cover up the gruesome crime. Some of them also consider Russian custody of the suspect a violation of Armenia’s national sovereignty.

In an apparent response to the Gyumri protest, the Office of the Prosecutor-General issued on Wednesday afternoon a statement saying that it is doing everything to “ensure the inevitability of criminal liability for the crime.”

Another Armenian law-enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee (IC), said it is taking measures to ensure that the ongoing investigation into the killings is “comprehensive, full and objective.” The committee also announced that it has formally indicted Permyakov on corresponding murder charges.

But neither the prosecutors nor the IC clarified whether the Armenian authorities will seek to have custody of the Russian soldier.

“Our demands have not been fulfilled,” Levon Barseghian, one of the organizers of the Gyumri protest, declared after reading out both statements to the angry crowd standing outside the local prosecutors’ headquarters. “The prosecutors have not changed their position voiced yesterday,” he said.

The protesters responded by marching towards the Russian base. They chanted “Shame!” and “We are the masters of our country!” during the protest.
Armenia – Hundreds of Armenians demonstrate outside the Russian military base in Gyumri, 14Jan2015.Armenia – Hundreds of Armenians demonstrate outside the Russian military base in Gyumri, 14Jan2015.

Raffi Aslanian, the chief regional prosecutor, rushed to the main entrance to the base headquarters shortly after the crowd reached it and was confronted by a larger number of riot police. He spent about two hours trying to convince it to march back to the city center.

“Dear people, please do not succumb to provocations,” Aslanian said through a megaphone. “Rest assured that if this gathering was to produce results I would stay with you.”

“It’s not that you are concerned and we are not,” he said. “If you want to fight you must do it legally.”

Aslanian then demonstratively phoned Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian to convey the protesters’ demands. After the phone call he cited Kostanian as telling him that senior law-enforcement officials will hold more “discussions” regarding Permyakov’s fate later on Wednesday and Thursday.

“After the discussions are over, the prosecutors will issue a statement,” added the top prosecutor of the Shirak province, of which Gyumri is the capital. He gave no further details.

The angry people eventually agreed to disperse. But Barseghian and other protest leaders told them to again gather in a central Gyumri square after the funeral of Seryozha Avetisian, his wife, unmarried daughter, son, daughter-in-law and 2-year-old granddaughter, slated for Thursday afternoon. Barseghian said they will march to the local prosecutors’ office and hear the authorities’ answer to their demands.

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12 Comments

  1. Harutik said:

    Armenian authorities need to jail anyone that attempts to politicize this tragedy.

    • Armenian said:

      People like you are enemies of free speech, expression and thought. It is your attitude that allows the Russians to treat Armenians like garbage both in their country and apparently in ours, too. Should the unfortunate event of one of your families being targeted aggressively by Russians happen to your family, you should have no right to speak about it.

      • James said:

        I’m not sure how you could’ve distilled that from what he said. He was referring to anti-Russian forces inside Armenia attempting to exploit the deaths of these poor family members for their own wicked gain.

    • James said:

      Yes! Please take away your base! We will replace it with a Turkish one! (sarcasm)

  2. Hratch said:

    Regardless of any protests, if this incident is counter productive to Mother Russia’s image then the decision will be based on nothing other than what Tsar Putin decides.

  3. light said:

    the rabbit hole gets deeper

    are the dark forces are trying to create a second Ukraine in Armenia

    this kind of terror has its own SIGNATURE
    dark forces are in action and what they want A FALL GUY

  4. Avetis said:

    As Armenians and Russians fight, Turks and Azeris are impatiently watching and liking their lips. I am with the people, I grieve for the losses, I want to see that monster executed for his crimes. With that said, every single provocateur in the crowed of protestors, especially those Western funded mercenaries that jumped into their cars in Yerevan and went to Gyumri to incite violence there, needs to be arrested and dealt with properly. At the end of the day had the Russian 102nd base not been stationed in Armenia we would most probably have lost Armenia.

  5. mike19231 said:

    I personally don’t think that we will gain anything valuable from these protests, now we’re left with Armenians fighting each other again. This will lead to further causalities and possibly more terrific acts as civilians get out of control.

    There needs to be one who will convince them that provocations are no use at this stage, and by violence they will not achieve their goals.
    I don’t live in Armenia and don’t know what’s happening in detail, but I watched couple of videos on protests – I was ashamed.
    People need to wake up, stop taking sides (pro-Russian, anti-Russian etc.), they should unite and try to solve the problems together.

    After all Armenians are known as intelligent and powerful people. This year on April 24, an event worldwide will be held to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. It’s a crucial moment for us, we all need to unite and avoid conflicts between us and show the world that we care.

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