YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Russia on Thursday expressed regrets over Wednesday’s incident in the Armenian city of Gumri in which two local people were killed after two reportedly drunk Russian soldiers opened fire on passers-by.
Police have said one of the victims was killed on the site while the other died the next day in the hospital. Seven other people were reported wounded in the shooting spree. According to the official version–the border guard soldiers had gotten drunk before stealing two Kalashnikov guns from their nearby Russian base.
"This very sad and tragic event can in no way be justified," Russia’s ambassador to Armenia–Anatoly Dryukov–told reporters. He offered condolences to the families of the dead. Dryukov suggested that the incident may have resulted from "some sort of a row" at the border guard detachment. Witnesses said the two men–privates Denis Popov and Aleksandr Kamenev–stopped shooting after being toppled and then beaten up by a crowd of furious Gumri residents. State television showed last night the severely injured soldiers as they were taken to a local hospital.
Ambassador Dryukov said he is confident that the deadly shooting will not affect the close relations between Russia and Armenia. Russian border troops have guarded Armenia’s border with Iran and Turkey since the break-up of the Soviet Union. No such incidents have been reported before.
Gen. Mikael Harutiunian–chief of staff of the Armenian army–said on Thursday it is up to Armenian law-enforcement bodies to clarify all circumstances of the attack. An official investigation has already been launched.