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Former Armenian Police Chief Threatens RFE/RL Reporters

Updated

Vladimir Gasparian was the head of Armenia's police.

Former Armenian Police Chief Vladimir Gasparian on August 8 threatened two RFE/RL Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) journalists and obstructed their work on a report about government plans to dismantle private houses illegally constructed near Lake Sevan.

Gasparian, who served as Armenia’s police chief for seven years before being dismissed after the change of government in May 2018, drove his vehicle in the direction of the two RFE/RL reporters, almost running over them, after seeing that they were filming in the lakeside area where his house is presumably located.

Gasparian threatened the reporters, using phrases like “I’ll shoot you” and “I’ll slaughter you,” and, using offensive language, he also demanded that the reporters not show his house in their report.

RFE/RL's Armenian Service has reported the incident to police.

"We are horrified at this attack on our Armenian Service reporters, by no less than a former chief of police," RFE/RL's acting President Daisy Sindelar said.

"The reporters were covering a story of significant public interest when Mr. Gasparian nearly struck them with his vehicle, threatened to kill them, and forced them to erase their footage," Sindelar said.

"We demand that police investigate the incident, and that Mr. Gasparian be held accountable for endangering journalists who were simply doing their jobs," Sindelar said.

The RFE/RL reporters were working on a follow-up story after newly appointed Environment Minister Romanos Petrosian said this week that authorities will formally start the process of dismantling illegal constructions near Lake Sevan on August 10.

According to media reports, a number of houses belonging to several former high-ranking officials, including Gasparian, are affected by the decision.

Earlier this week, Petrosian ordered the dismantling of a lakeside resort where a party, with a current pro-government lawmaker in attendance, had been held in breach of coronavirus safety rules set by the authorities.

Initially, 130 business facilities will be affected, but a total of 3,800 buildings, including houses, are eventually to be dismantled.

Environmentalists argue that illegal constructions -- both business facilities and private houses -- greatly damage the lake’s ecosystem, resulting in its usually blue water turning green at some places during the summer in recent years.

The minister said the demolitions will be a “long process” and said only first steps are being taken now, but formally the process will start on August 10.

An environmental plan for Lake Sevan, which lies at 1,900 meters above sea level, aims to raise its level, and the buildings that are to be demolished lie below the level to which it is to be raised.

Raising the level of the lake, the largest body of fresh water in Armenia, has been the stated goal of consecutive Armenian governments.

With reporting by Robert Zargarian
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