A Russian soldier has been found dead with several stab wounds near Russia's military base in Armenia, and Russian media reported that a fellow serviceman is suspected of killing him.
Armenian Investigative Committee's spokeswoman Sona Truzian said on June 15 that the body of the soldier, Ivan Novikov, was found not far from the patriotic Mother Armenia monument in Gyumri, Armenia's second-largest city and the home of the 102nd Russian Military Base.
There has been tension in Gyumri since a brutal attack in January in which a soldier from the base is suspected of killing seven members of an Armenian family.
But Russian news agencies cited the Russian military as saying that Novikov is believed to have been killed by a fellow Russian soldier, who has been taken into custody. The reports did not identify the suspect by name.
Truzian said Novikov suffered multiple stab wounds.
Regional prosecutor Raffi Aslanian confirmed Truzian's statement and said the Russian soldier's body was found on June 15. He said Novikov was a recent conscript who joined Russia's military forces in Armenia two or three months ago.
"At this point, investigators are examining the scene. Traces of violence were found on the body of the military serviceman," Aslanian said.
There was no immediate word on suspects or a motive, and it was unclear whether there was any significance in the location where Novikov's body was found. News photographs indicated that the body was found near the monument, but not right at the site.
Armenians held large protests in Gyumri after the massacre of seven members of a local family, including a 2-year-old girl and a six-month-old boy, on January 12. Protests were also held in the capital, Yerevan.
Protesters called for suspect Valery Permyakov, a private who had deserted the Russian base, to be handed over to Armenia for prosecution and trial, but Russian authorities say he is in custody at the base and will be tried there. Officials say he confessed to the killings.
The killings strained ties between Russia and Armenia, a small but crucial ally in the strategic South Caucasus. With about 3,000 troops, the 102nd is Russia's second-largest military base for ground forces abroad.
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 nation, which joined the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union less than two weeks before the family was killed.
Russian media reports cited an official from the Russian Armed Forces General Staff on January 20 as saying that conscripts 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.