Another High Profile Killing Reported in Yerevan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A businessman was found death with traces of violence in his Yerevan apartment late Wednesday–a second high-profile murder reported by the Armenian police in as many days.

A police statement said Armen Grigorian–the owner of a jewelry store in the city center–lay with a fractured skull and hands and feet tied to his bed. The police and prosecutors investigating the brutal killing suspect that it was connected with Grigorian’s business activities. They have not reported any arrests yet.

A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office told RFE/RL on Wednesday that the inquiry is being conducted under articles of the Armenian criminal code that deal with "murders committed for mercenary purposes and motives," racketeering–robbery and banditry. She would not say if the investigators suspect anyone of involvement in the crime.

Grigorian’s violent death came just one day after a reputed crime figure was shot dead along with an innocent bystander on a highway leading to Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri. The two killings highlight an apparent increase in contract killings reported in the country. Few of them have been solved so far.

Law-enforcement authorities have reported an almost 10 percent increase in the number of crimes committed during the first half of this year.

But General Hovannes Hunanian–deputy chief of the Armenian police–downplayed this at the weekend–arguing that Armenia’s crime rate remains one of the lowest in the former Soviet Union. "Despite a certain increase in the number of crimes–the crime rate in our republic is quite low," he said.

The beginning of the year saw an unprecedented series of armed robberies in Yerevan that left at least one policeman and a security guard who transported cash to a commercial bank dead. And in March–a businessman who owned a small pastry company was gunned down in downtown Yerevan in broad daylight and under still uncertain circumstances.

The most high-profile of the shootings occurred on June 22 when gunmen chased and killed–also in broad daylight–Sedrak Zatikian–a wealthy young man whose late father was a leader of the influential Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans. A 37-year-old woman who lived and worked nearby was also killed in a hail of automatic gunfire unleashed by them.

The police arrested later in June another young man’suspected of involvement in the shooting but released him shortly afterwards–citing a lack of evidence. Hunanian assured reporters that the police are doing their best to solve this and other brazen murders–even if they have made no arrests so far.

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