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Armenian Presidential Candidate Shot In Yerevan


Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visits wounded opposition presidential candidate Paruyr Hairikian at a Yerevan hospital.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visits wounded opposition presidential candidate Paruyr Hairikian at a Yerevan hospital.
YEREVAN -- A candidate in Armenia's upcoming presidential election has been wounded in a shooting in Yerevan.

Paruyr Hairikian has been taken to hospital after being shot by an unidentified attacker on a central street in the capital on the evening of January 31.

A relative of Hairikian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the 63-year-old opposition leader had been hit in the shoulder.

Other reports said Hairikian had been wounded in the chest.

Doctors treating Hairikian said he was in stable condition and the wound was not considered life-threatening. Surgeons have reportedly removed the bullet that was lodged in Hairikian's shoulder.

Police have launched an investigation. Reports said police had sealed off the area of the shooting and are searching for the gunman.

Hairikian was reportedly shot as he left his car near his parent’s house on Tpagrichneri Street in the southeast section of central Yerevan.

'Blow Against Government'

Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian condemned the attack as a blow against the government.

Sarkisian was one of several Armenian political leaders to visit Hairikian in hospital.

WATCH: Video by RFE/RL's Armenian Service shows police sealing off the site of the shooting.
Armenian Presidential Candidate Wounded In Gun Attack
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Also visiting Hairikian was parliament speaker Hovik Abramian, who said the attack on the candidate could be aimed at derailing the election.

"That was a dangerous thing to do, and it was aimed at destabilization of our country. But I am convinced we will not let it happen and everything will continue as it should," Abramian said.

"If Paruyr Hairikian will be able to continue the presidential race, then the elections will be held as scheduled, but if he would have health problems, then elections will be postponed for two weeks. This is the clause of the law."

Armenia's constitution requires a two-week delay in the vote if a candidate is unable to participate because of circumstances beyond his or her control. If the issue causing the delay cannot be resolved, there could be a further 40-day postponement.

Hairikian told RFE/RL he might ask for the two-week postponement.

Hairikian, the chairman of the Union of National Self-Determination Party, is one of eight candidates in the February 18 presidential vote, which incumbent Serzh Sarkisian is expected to win.

Hairikian spent a total of 11 years in Soviet prison camps and a further three in internal exile for his membership of a clandestine political organization and authorship of "samizdat."

Controversy and violence are no strangers to presidential elections in Armenia.

In 2008, 10 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters after Sarkisian was declared the winner.

This year's election comes as Armenia's economy struggles to recover from the recent global financial crisis.

Armenia also remains hobbled by a trade blockade imposed by neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan since the 1990s war with Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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