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Russian Soldier Will Be Tried In Armenia, Reportedly By Russian Court

Armenians Mourn Infant Slain In Attack On Family
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WATCH: Mourners gathered at a church in the northwestern Armenian city of Gyumri on January 20 for a funeral service for a 6-month-old boy who died of injuries sustained in an attack against his entire family by a Russian soldier based in Gyumri. (RFE/RL's Armenian Service)

Russia says a soldier accused of killing seven members of a single family in Armenia will be tried on Armenian soil, but media reports say the trial will be conducted by a Russian military court.

The January 20 announcement is unlikely to appease protesters who have demanded the suspect in an attack that stunned the country be transferred to Armenian custody and tried in the former Soviet republic.

Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said the investigation and criminal proceedings against suspect Valery Permyakov "will be held exclusively on Armenian soil."

However, he said that the proceedings will be conducted in accordance with international law, Russian legislation, and agreements between Russia and Armenia governing Russia's military base in the city of Gyumri, where Permyakov was stationed and is now being held.

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the website, citing Armenian government sources, said the trial would be conducted by a Russian military court in Armenia.

Authorities say Permyakov has confessed to the killings, which sparked angry protests last week in Yerevan and Gyumri by Armenians demanding he be transferred to Armenian custody.

Russian authorities have said that according to the Russian Constitution, Russian citizens suspected of committing crimes in other countries cannot be extradited to such countries -- a policy President Vladimir Putin has described in other circumstances by saying that Russia does not "give up its own."

Armenian protesters clash with riot police on January 15 near the Russian Consulate in Gyumri, where the family was killed in their home.
Armenian protesters clash with riot police on January 15 near the Russian Consulate in Gyumri, where the family was killed in their home.

The Investigative Committee's announcement coincided with a candle-lighting ceremony commemorating Seryozha Avetisian, a 6-month-old boy who was stabbed in the attack and died in a Yerevan hospital on January 19.

He had been the sole survivor of the attack: His parents, 2-year-old sister, aunt, and grandparents were found dead in their home in Gyumri on January 12.

Both Russian and Armenian officials have made soothing statements in an effort to ensure it does not threaten their ties or lead to large-scale street protests in Armenia.

In a telephone conversation with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian on January 18, Putin expressed his condolences to the Avetisians' relatives and the Armenian nation and promised a swift investigation and appropriate punishment for the massacre.

The killings are testing ties between Russia and Armenia, which has just joined the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and hosts the base that is Moscow's biggest foothold in the strategic South Caucasus.

For Armenia, which is flanked by longtime foes Azerbaijan and Turkey, regional giant Russia is a potential protector and a trade partner. But government opponents and other Armenians chafe at Moscow's powerful influence over the small, poor, landlocked country.

After the attack, for which no possible motive has been publicly revealed, Permyakov was detained by a Russian border-guard unit at the Armenian-Turkish border.

Russian media reports quoted a Russian Armed Forces General Staff official on January 20 as saying that conscripts -- like Permyakov -- will no longer be stationed at the Gyumri base as of 2016.

Instead, only military personnel serving on contractual basis will be stationed there, according to the report, which said the change had been planned before the killings in Gyumri.

With reporting by Interfax