MOSCOW (RFE/RL)—The trial of a Russian soldier accused of murdering seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri in January will start in the northwestern Armenian city on August 12, a spokesman for the 5th Garrison Military Court of the Russian Federation confirmed on Thursday.
Sergey Sarumov said 19-year-old Valery Permyakov, who served at the Russian military base in Gyumri, will be tried by the court of Russian jurisdiction on charges of desertion with arms, stealing of firearms and ammunition, and illegally carrying weapons.
The trial in connection with the murder charges is due to take place in a court of Armenian jurisdiction. No date for the murder trial has been set yet.
Earlier, Russian media had reported that the Russian garrison military court had extended Permyakov’s arrest for another six months.
Permyakov has been kept under arrest at the Gyumri headquarters of the Russian military base in Armenia since being arrested hours after a local couple, their daughter, son, daughter-in-law and two-year-old granddaughter were found dead in their home on January 12. The seventh member of the Avetisian family, a six-month-old baby boy, died of his stab injuries a week later.
Permyakov admitted to murdering them during separate interrogations by Russian and Armenian law-enforcement officials, but his motives still remain unclear.
Russian authorities made it clear immediately after Permyakov’s arrest that he would not be extradited to Armenia. This caused outrage in Armenia, with many fearing a Russian cover-up of the case. Thousands of people demonstrated in Gyumri in January to demand Permyakov’s handover to Armenian authorities. Some clashed with riot police near the local Russian consulate in Armenia’s second largest city.
The unprecedented protests forced Armenia’s Prosecutor-General, Gevorg Kostanian, to formally ask his Russian counterpart Yuri Chayka to ensure that the high-profile case is transferred to Armenian jurisdiction. Still, even after Kostanian’s letter to Chayka, Russian officials insisted that the detained soldier would be tried by a Russian military court.
In late June, however, it was announced that Russia had agreed to allow Armenian law-enforcement authorities to prosecute Permyakov.
The Russian side’s decision to transfer the part of the case regarding the murder of the Armenian family to Armenian investigators was announced by President Serzh Sarkisisan amid street protests in Yerevan against electricity price hikes initiated by Armenia’s Russian-owned power distribution network. Armenian observers said that the move was likely Russia’s attempt to improve its image in Armenia amid fears of a Western-inspired colored revolution in the former Soviet republic.
Later in June, Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General reaffirmed that Permyakov would stand trial in connection with the murders in an Armenian court.