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Armenia's Ex-Security Service Chief Found Dead With Gunshot Wound

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Georgi Kutoian

YEREVAN – Georgi Kutoian, a former head of Armenia's National Security Service (NSS), has been found dead in a Yerevan apartment, officials say.

A spokeswoman for the Investigations Committee said that Kutoian's body was found with a gunshot wound in an apartment in a residential area north of the city's center on January 17.

A team of investigators was at the scene, it said, giving no further details.

The deputy head of Armenia's Investigations Committee, Artur Melikian, said later in the day that a probe had been opened under the article of the Criminal Code that covers "incitement to suicide."

"But that doesn't mean that we're not considering other lines of inquiry, including murder or disguised murder," Melikian said.

He added that "more than 40 shells and bullets were found" at the scene and that Kutoyan had a gunshot wound "on the top of his head."

Kutoian, 38, served as NSS director from 2016 to 2018.

A lawyer by education, he worked as an assistant to then-President Serzh Sarkisian beginning in 2011. His appointment to head the NSS in February 2016 came as a surprise to most observers.

Kutoian was dismissed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in May 2018 shortly after popular unrest forced Sarkisian to resign.

He kept a low profile while in office and did not make any public statements after his dismissal.

Armen Ashotian, deputy chairman of Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), said on January 17 that Kutoian may have been murdered.

"This tragic incident is very strange and raises many questions," he said in a written statement that called for a "transparent and comprehensive" investigation.

He gave no evidence to back up his claim.

Kutoian is the second former top security official to be found shot dead in the last four months.

Hayk Harutiunian, a former head of the Armenian police, was found dead at his country house in September.

Harutiunian reportedly had a gunshot wound to the head. Investigators suggested he had committed suicide.

During the previous months, Harutiunian was interrogated several times in a criminal investigation into postelection violence in Yerevan in 2008.

Investigators said Kutoian was not questioned as a suspect or a witness in that case.

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