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Armenian Prosecutor Vows To Ask Russia For Massacre Suspect

  • RFE/RL's Armenian Service

GYUMRI, Armenia -- Armenia's prosecutor-general has promised a large group of protesters that he will ask Russia to hand over a soldier accused of killing six civilians near Russia's military base in Armenia.

Prosecutor-General Gevork Kostanian made the vow on January 15 to a crowd of hundreds that marched from victims' funeral to the regional prosecutor's office in Gyumri, where the six relatives were killed on January 12.

Authorities say Russian army Private Valery Permyakov confessed that he killed the family members after he had deserted the Russian base at Gyumri, Moscow's biggest foothold in the South Caucasus.

Earlier, Kostanian's office indicated that Russian authorities would prosecute Permyakov, who was being held at the Russian military base.

Tensions were high on January 15 as parliament chairman Galust Sahakian, other lawmakers, and public figures joined hundreds of mourners at the funeral for the victims -- a local couple from Gyumri, their son and daughter-in-law, a 2-year-old granddaughter, and an unmarried daughter.

A six-month-old grandson of the couple was stabbed but survived and has been hospitalized.

Reports say police later used tear gas to disperse the crowd of demonstrators after they marched to the Russian Consulate in Gyumri.

Meanwhile, in Yerevan, protesters on January 15 scuffled with police who prevented them from burning a Russian flag outside of Moscow's embassy in the Armenian capital.

Two protesters there -- one of them a prominent film director, Tigran Khzmalian -- were detained.

The protesters were demanding that Permyakov be charged with the murders under Armenian law, handed over by Russian military officials to Armenian custody, and be prosecuted by an Armenian court.

Permyakov was detained by Russian border guards near the Armenian-Turkish border on January 13.

Kostanian's office on January 14 had said that Russia would prosecute Permyakov because, according to the Russian Constitution, Russian citizens detained by Russian authorities on suspicion of committing crimes cannot be handed over to the custody of another country.

Russia has about 3,000 troops at its military base in Gyumri.

The facility is one of Russia's largest military installations abroad and is seen as strategically vital in a geopolitical rivalry in the South Caucasus, which is nestled between Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the energy-rich Caspian Sea basin.

Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and the Eurasian Economic Union, two groupings of former Soviet republics that the Kremlin uses as instruments of power in the region.

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