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Eight Armenian Army Officers Discharged Over Soldier Deaths

Artak Nazarian

Artak Nazarian

YEREVAN -- Eight Armenian officers have been discharged from the army and more than a dozen others demoted following seven noncombat shooting deaths last month, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

In a statement released today, the Defense Ministry clarified that they include commanders, deputy commanders, and other senior officers, but did not identify them.

Television images showed that there was one colonel and at least two lieutenant colonels among them. According to the statement, 13 other "commanders and service chiefs" were relieved of their duties and will be demoted. Another 20 officers got off with formal reprimands.

The punitive measures were triggered by incidents at two frontline army detachments on July 27-28. In one of those units stationed in the northern Tavush region, a 30-year-old lieutenant, Artak Nazarian, was found dead in still unclear circumstances. His relatives believe he was killed by fellow servicemen.

Military investigators say, however, that Nazarian committed suicide after being badly ill-treated by a deputy commander of his battalion and three soldiers. All four men are under arrest pending investigation.

Nazarian's death was followed by the fatal shooting of one officer and five soldiers at another unit deployed in the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian confirmed during a meeting with senior officers on August 6 that military investigators believe one of those soldiers, Karo Ayvazian, went on a shooting spree and killed himself after a bitter dispute with the officer.

Also during that meeting, two men apparently arrested in connection with other deadly incidents were brought in. Armenian Public Television described one of them as a conscript who shot one of his officers, and the other as an officer who beat to death a sergeant.