EDITORIAL: Armenian Family Murdered by Russian Soldier

Armenians have congregated en masse outside of the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri where Russian soldier Valery Permyakov is currently being held. The serviceman has allegedly murdered the Avestisian family in cold blood on 12 January, leaving all but one dead. The six-month old infant, Seryozha, remained in critical condition after suffering stab wounds, and sadly passed away a week later.

Valery Permayakov has since been captured attempting to cross the Armenian-Turkish border, and has confessed to the brutal crime.

However the key issue lies in the fact that Permyakov will be prosecuted under Russian jurisdiction, in spite of the fact that the base agreement between the Russia and Armenia gives Armenia that right. Protesters have since marched in thousands from the Shirak province prosecutor’s office to the Russian consulate service, sparking violent altercations between civilians and the police. The Armenian police have reportedly fired stun grenades into the crowds, and the clashes have left three policemen and nine civilians injured.

Armenia’s Prosecutor General, Gevorg Kostanian, has announced that he will do his best to 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.

The Russian ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Volynkin, said in a statement on Thursday that the murder investigation will be objective. He also expressed his condolences to the family of the victims.

“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”

“The criminal will punished to the full extent of the law,” he added. “Russian and Armenian authorities are collaborating on an investigation.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu condemned the crime and quickly dispatched his deputy, General Arkady Bakhin, to head a special investigative commission. Authorities at the base, meanwhile, have vowed a vigorous and collaborative probe.

 

From a personal perspective, I believe that the legal agreements between Russia and Armenia regarding military bases should not only be revised, but should also come under intense public scrutiny, as well as professional scrutiny by an independent commission. There is a lack of clarity regarding the agreements themselves: a 1997 bilateral treaty stipulates that Russian military personnel who commit crimes outside the Gyumri base fall under Armenian jurisdiction. On the other hand, the treaty also states that Russia maintains jurisdiction over crimes, such as desertion, committed on-base. Furthermore, the Russian constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens to foreign states. These issues create numerous legal challenges that I feel Armenia is incapable of effectively tackling. Even if Permyakov is to be handed to the Armenian courts, many are skeptical of the neutrality of the Armenian judicial system – which inevitably subordinates itself to Russian authority and is wary of offending it.

This murder has not been the only violent manifestation on the behalf of Russian soldiers: in 1999, two intoxicated Russian officers opened fire in Gyumri’s market, killing two and wounding dozens. In 2013, explosive devices left by Russian soldiers on the aforementioned base’s firing ground killed two boys.

— Emin Moskofian

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