GYUMRI, Armenia (RFE/RL)—The Russian soldier accused of murdering the seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri suffered from a mental disorder just months before being sent to Armenia in December, Russian officials reportedly claimed on Thursday.
Several leading Russian media outlets cited military officials as saying that Valery Permyakov was diagnosed with oligophrenia, or mental retardation, and even spent a month in a military hospital shortly after being drafted last summer in his native Chita region in Siberia.
They said Russian military prosecutors have launched criminal proceedings against a local recruitment officer who conscripted Permyakov and the commander of an army unit where the 18-year-old served until being transferred to the Russian military base in Armenia. Both officers are said to be risking prosecution on charges of “criminal negligence.”
According to the “Komsomolskaya Pravda” mass-circulation daily, the recruitment officer, Aleksandr Loginovsky, dismissed the mental disability claims as “complete nonsense.” “When Valery was called up he was in good health,” Loginovsky told the paper.
“Permyakov had no documents certifying a mental disorder,” said Yury Bystrov, a more high-ranking Chita official in charge of military drafts. The soldier was not diagnosed with any serious diseases when he underwent a medical examination at a local military commissariat, Bystrov insisted, according to “Komsomolskaya Pravda.”
In Yerevan, an Armenian law-enforcement body investigating the January 12 massacre in Gyumri said that it has no information about Permyakov’s alleged health problems. “We have no such data in our criminal case at the moment,” Sona Truzian, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Truzian said that the committee has made written inquiries about the soldier’s mental condition with relevant Russian authorities. The latter have not replied yet, she added.
With Permyakov being kept in detention at the Russian base’s Gyumri headquarters, Armenian investigators have so far been unable to subject him to a medical examination. The Russian military has only allowed them to interrogate the suspect.
Permyakov is said to have admitted killing the seven members of the Avetisian family, including two babies. But his motives remain unclear.
The Russian claims that the soldier has a history of mental retardation could add a new twist to separate investigations into the brutal killings that are conducted by Russian and Armenian law-enforcement authorities. It remains to be seen whether the Russian defense attorneys will use the insanity defense to try to save Permyakov from imprisonment.
Thousands of Gyumri residents demonstrated in the wake of the family massacre to demand Permyakov’s handover to the Armenian authorities. They believe that the Russian jurisdiction over the high-profile case increases chances of a cover-up of the crime. Many locals are unconvinced by Russian officials’ assurances that the suspect will receive “the most severe punishment” if found guilty.