Protesters demand Russian soldier’s trial in Armenia, clash with police
The clashes erupted in Armenia’s second largest city on Thursday after the funeral of the six members of the Avetisyan family, who were killed earlier this week. The protesters – who came “in thousands” according to local media – marched from the Shirak province prosecutor’s office to the Russian consulate service, and then began hurling stones and bottles at police.
— RT (@RT_com) January 15, 2015
Police responded with stun grenades, according to witnesses. Live footage also showed smoke rising from the crowd. Some 14 people – including four officers – were reportedly injured. Police detained the most violent protesters.
— Mesrop Andranikyan (@MesAndranikyan) January 15, 2015
Demonstrators demanded that Russian solider Valery Permyakov – the key suspect in the murder – stay in Armenia for trial and not be transferred to Russia. The serviceman is accused of gunning the family down with an AK-74, in what is believed to have been a crime of passion. Permyakov, who has admitted to the murders, shot six people – including a two-year-old girl. A six-month-old boy was also stabbed, but survived.
— Iza Bel (@samayaiza) January 15, 2015
Russia, Armenia conduct joint investigation
Russia's Defense Ministry acknowledged that Permyakov went AWOL with his weapons from Russia’s 102 Military Base in Gyumri before the murder spree. He was arrested later that day while trying to cross the Turkish border.
The possibility of transferring Permyakov to Russia is out of the question, said Armenian Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanian, as the suspect is currently on the territory of Armenia and only technically under the jurisdiction of Russian law enforcement. Kostanian has announced that he will do his best to merge the ongoing Russian and Armenian criminal cases into one and insure that Permyakov is tried by an Armenian court.
“As prosecutor general and a man, I am telling you that I will definitely appeal to Russia’s prosecutor general with that demand,” Kostanian said as the protest raged.
Expressing his condolences to the family of the victims, Russian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volynkin promised an objective and all-embracing dual nation investigation into the murder of the Avetisyan family.
“There is no justification for this atrocity. All of the embassy staff share the pain of this loss with the brotherly people of Armenia and mourn along with them,”he said in a statement.
With a moratorium on the death penalty in place, the suspect is facing from 20 years to a life sentence in prison, according to Russian law. At the same time, the law bars Russian authorities from handing Russian citizens to foreign governments for prosecution.
“The criminal will be punished to the full extent of the law,” Volynkin added. “Armenian and Russian competent bodies are carrying out a joint investigation. I have no doubt that it will be objective and all-embracing.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has personally expressed his condolences to the Armenian side, calling the horrific killings a “tragedy.” Shoigu dispatched one of his deputies to Gyumri to lead a team of investigators, and has promised severe punishment for whoever is responsible for the crime.