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Former Armenian Security Chief Dies

Grigori Sarkisian stands behind then-President Robert Kocharian during an official ceremony in Yerevan in this undated photo.
YEREVAN -- A former high-ranking security official who was close to former President Robert Kocharian and who was accused of playing a major role in the violent 2008 crackdown on the Armenian opposition has died, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

General Grigori Sarkisian, the former head of the State Protection Service (SPS), suffered a heart attack in his Yerevan home early on September 7, a spokesman for Kocharian told RFE/RL.

Sarkisian, who had no relation to current President Serzh Sarkisian, was 53 years old.

A native of Nagorno-Karabakh, Sarkisian headed the SPS, which is responsible for the personal security of Armenia's highest-ranking officials, from its establishment in 2004 until May 2008.

He previously headed Kocharian's security detail.

Sarkisian gained considerable political and economic clout during Kocharian's decade-long rule, reportedly becoming one of the second Armenian president's most important associates.

He is believed to have been actively involved in the bloody suppression of antigovernment demonstrations led by supporters of Kocharian's predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrosian, in the wake of the disputed February 2008 presidential election.

Ter-Petrosian claims Sarkisian personally escorted him away from Yerevan's Liberty Square during the violent March 1, 2008 predawn dispersal of a protest tent camp set up there.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) regarded Sarkisian as one of the main organizers of the March 1 "slaughter."