YEREVAN (Arka)—Armenia’s Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanyan said Wednesady he will travel to Gyumri Thursday to tell its residents about the investigation into the murder of a six-member family, adding that the guilty will be brought to justice in Armenia.
According to police, Valery Permyakov, a soldier who deserted his post on the Russian military base in Gyumri, admitted to murdering the six members of the family — a couple, their son and daughter-in-law, a two-year-old granddaughter, and a daughter. They all were found shot dead in their house on January 12.
The couple’s six-month-old grandson was hospitalized in a grave condition. The victims were all shot with an AK-47. Permyakov was detained on January 13, shortly after midnight, while trying to cross the border into Turkey dressed in civilian clothing.
“Tomorrow at 10 am I’ll be in Gyumri and will present to its residents the details of the entire procedure. Our goal is to bring the perpetrator to justice,” Kostanyan told reporters.
“I am sure that the criminal will be prosecuted in the territory of the Republic of Armenia, and we will all be able to follow the process,” he added.
In comments about statements that Armenia has conceded the investigation of the crime to the Russian officials, Kostanyan said that “Armenia does not concede anything to anyone.”
“Tomorrow you will see the active efforts of the Armenian law enforcement agencies that will demonstrate the determination of the Republic of Armenia to prosecute any person who has committed an assault against a citizen of Armenia,” he said.
This is in contrast to a statement made Tuesday by Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General which said that Permyakov would not be handed over to Armenian law-enforcement, adding that Russia’s constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens to foreign states. The statement also said that Russian and Armenian law-enforcement bodies were jointly probing the case.
A spokeswoman for Armenia’s State Investigative Committee (SIC) Sona Truzyan said Wednesday that SIC has decided to prosecute Permyakov for the killing of more than two people.
Protesters Demand Hand-Over of Permyakov to Armenia
More than 1,000 residents of Gyumri marched through the city earlier on Wednesday to demand that Permyakov 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.