YEREVAN -- The trial of a Russian soldier charged with beating a woman to death has begun in the Armenian city of Gyumri, although the defendant was not transported from the Russian military base to the court for the proceedings.
As the trial began on February 4, 24-year-old Andrei Razgildeyev remained on the Russian military base in Armenia where he was stationed and where he has been detained for more than a year since his arrest.
The trial was adjourned for a month, court officials said after the day's proceedings.
Razgildeyev was arrested in December 2018 following the violent death of Julietta Ghukasian, a 57-year-old street cleaner from Gyumri. He was charged by Armenian law enforcement with assault and involuntary manslaughter, but a possible motive remains unclear.
If convicted, he faces five to 10 years in prison.
The refusal to transfer the defendant to Armenian authorities has angered the victim's family and rights activists.
Aleksandr Gladyshev, a representative of the Russian military base, said the base commander had in a letter prohibited Razgildeyev from being transported off the territory of the facility until Armenian authorities provided security guarantees for the soldier in writing, something the Russian Defense Ministry says has not yet occurred.
Gladyshev asserted that "since this is a high-profile case, any transfer of the Russian serviceman to the territory of Armenia raises concerns."
"This issue was raised by the Russian Defense Ministry. We are still waiting for permission from the commanders regarding [Razgildeyev's] movement in the territory of Armenia," he said.
The trial had originally been expected to open on September 6, but it has been postponed at least three times without explanation.
Ghukasian's daughter, Anahit, demanded that the defendant be brought to the court, saying: "Bring the Russian here so we can finally see what this trial is going to be like. I have lost a parent, not a chicken."
Her lawyer, Arayik Chaylian, petitioned that the court ensure Razgildeyev's presence at the next hearing. "The fact is that Razgildeyev has failed to appear in court for ungrounded reasons," he said.
Rights activist Artur Sakunts, who also represents Anahit Ghukasian, described the Russian commander's stance as "an exceptionally contemptuous attitude toward the sovereignty of the Republic of Armenia."
Armenian lawyer Narine Rshtuni, who is representing Razgildeyev, said she knew nothing about the base commander's decision before the start of the hearing.
But she said of her client, "I can only say that he does not plead guilty. You will see the rest during the trial."
The northwestern Armenian city of Gyumri, where Russia maintains a garrison, was the site of a 2015 deadly attack attributed to a Russian soldier based there.
A local court in 2016 sentenced Private Valery Permyakov to life in prison for the killing of seven members of an Armenian family.
Permyakov was held in detention at the Russian base before and during his trial and was later transferred to Russia to serve his sentence. The case sparked protests in Gyumri and elsewhere in Armenia.