GYUMRI (RFE/RL)–Police in Armenia’s northwestern province of Shirak have detained a group of young men, among them the son of the controversial mayor of Gyumri, after a local villager was fired at on Thursday evening.
Gevorg Hakobian, a 54-year-old resident of the village of Sarnaghbyur, sustained a gunshot wound in the leg in an incident that reportedly took place near the local reservoir. Police have confirmed the incident but have so far yet to name a suspect. According to the information published on the official police website, a preliminary investigation into the incident is ongoing.
The victim, Hakobian, was taken to hospital in the Shirak province’s administrative center Gyumri, some 120 kilometers to the northwest of capital Yerevan, where he underwent a surgery. Doctors say his wound is not life-threatening.
RFE/RL has learned that a group of young people from Gyumri, among whom was also Gyumri mayor Vartan Ghukasian’s son Spartak, made a stop at Sarnaghbyur’s local church while on a pilgrimage tour from Gyumri to Etchmiadzin, the seat of the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Residents of the village say Hakobian attempted to block their entry to the area of a high-voltage electricity grid, provoking angry reaction from at least one member of the group, who fired a shot in the man’s direction from a pistol.
Local people, however, told police they did not know the identity of the shooter.
“The whole village is in fear, and not only us,” said one resident.
“Why had they come here with pistols? What is the business of armed people there?” another angry resident told RFE/RL.
In May 2007, Spartak Ghukasian was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for his proved involvement in a high-profile gunfight between two groups of young men in the streets of Gyumri. He was granted parole after serving one third of the sentence.
His father, mayor Ghukasian himself has been dogged by controversy ever since he was first elected mayor of Armenia’s second largest city in 1999. Critics have long accused him of leading a business clan that controls much of the local economy and tolerates no competition.
He has also earned notoriety for his flamboyant behavior that has occasionally turned violent. In August 2005, for instance, Ghukasian reportedly shot from a pistol at a group of Russian soldiers stationed in Gyumri after a drunken argument in a local restaurant belonging to his brother. No police action followed.
In April 2007, Ghukasian narrowly survived an apparent assassination attempt when unknown gunmen opened fire on his motorcade outside Yerevan, killing three of his bodyguards. Ghukasian and his deputy Gagik Manukian were seriously wounded and hospitalized. The case has still not been solved.