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Armenian President Vows 'Special Attention' To Noncombat Army Deaths


President Serzh Sarkisian talks to protesting parents of soldiers who died in non-combat incidents.

President Serzh Sarkisian talks to protesting parents of soldiers who died in non-combat incidents.

YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said he would pay "special attention" to investigations into noncombat army deaths after being confronted by angry parents of dead soldiers, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The incident outside Sarkisian's office on January 27 marred an awards ceremony dedicated to the 19th anniversary of the formation of Armenia's armed forces. Sarkisian gave medals to some 30 army officers.

As the officers lined up outside the presidential palace in Yerevan for photos with the president, participants heard shouts from more than a dozen people standing at the gates of the compound. The protesters demanded action against what they called an official cover-up of the deaths of their sons while in the army.

Sarkisian approached the group to assure them he was as interested as anyone in solving the cases. He cited the recent appointment of a new chief military prosecutor as proof of the authorities' intention to crack down on army crimes.

Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian was on hand to give similar assurances. "Mr. President, I want to inform you that all criminal cases are under control and that I am personally dealing with them," he said, according to Tert.am.

Prosecutor To Consult Parents

Sarkisian said he will order the new prosecutor, Gevorg Kostanian, to meet the protesters and look into their grievances.

Armen Arzumanian, the presidential press secretary, told RFE/RL that that meeting took place later in the day. He said it was agreed the prosecutor would also hold separate meetings with the grief-stricken parents.

The parents say military investigators have falsely portrayed the violent deaths of their sons as suicides or accidents and failed to punish anyone seriously. One of those soldiers, Tigran Ohanjanian, was found dead near his military unit in 2007.

"According to the official theory, my son was accidentally electrocuted, but I insist that he was killed because there was [evidence of violent crime] on his body," said Ohanjanian's mother, Gohar Sargsian.

The problem, which dates back to Soviet times, has had greater public resonance recently because of a spate of noncombat deaths and other violent incidents involving military personnel. Dozens of officers have been arrested, fired, or demoted since August.
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