GYUMRI (RFE/RL) — The Russian soldier charged with killing an Armenian family of seven in Gyumri pleaded guilty to all grave accusations leveled against him as his main trial continued there on Friday.
Valery Permyakov will face a life sentence if a court in Armenia’s second largest city convicts him of murdering a local couple, their daughter, son, daughter-in-law and two small grandchildren in January 2015. The 20-year-old conscript also stands accused of armed robbery and an attempt to illegally cross the Armenian-Turkish border.
Permyakov did not testify about the reasons why he deserted his unit with an assault rifle, broke into the Avetisian family’s modest house and went on a killing spree there early in the morning. He told Russian military prosecutors last year that he had grown homesick and wanted to reunite with his family living in a small town in Siberia.
A Russian military court sentenced Permyakov to 10 years in prison for desertion in August. That trial began shortly after Russian authorities reluctantly agreed to place the separate murder case under Armenian jurisdiction.
Permyakov’s Armenian trial is taking place, ostensibly for security considerations, at the Gyumri headquarters of the Russian military base in Armenia. The defendant has been kept there ever since his arrest.
Permyakov’s guilty plea was followed by the cross-examination of two relatives of the murdered Avetisian family. It started from Rita Petrosian, whose sister Hasmik was among the victims and who was the first to enter the Avetisians’ house after the massacre.
In a distraught voice, Petrosian gave a harrowing account of the crime scene discovered by her. “There was blood all over Aida’s face, and I mechanically ran to another room where my sister and her husband lay … [Their son] Armen lay on the floor, [his wife] Araksya was in bed with [their 2-year-old daughter] Hasmik.”
“I was so shocked that I didn’t look for Seryozha,” she added, referring to the 6-month-old boy who died of his stab injuries a week later.
Araksya’s father, Andranik Poghosian, was the next to take the stand, urging the court to ensure a fair trial. His testimony was accompanied by angry cries from other relatives present in the makeshift courtroom.
The trial was adjourned until January 29 after the surviving daughters of the murdered couple, Anahit and Lusine, told the court that they are too distressed to give testimony now.