GYUMRI—A Russian soldier accused of murdering seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri will be tried in Armenia but by a Russian military court, a senior Russian pro-government lawmaker insisted on Sunday.
Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of a State Duma committee on relations with ex-Soviet states, thus reaffirmed Moscow’s refusal to hand over the suspect, Valery Permyakov, to Armenian law-enforcement authorities.
Slutsky announced the imminent completion of a Russian criminal investigation into the January 12 massacre after laying flowers at the graves of the Avetisian family members. “As was requested by the Armenian side, the trial will take place at a military tribunal here in Armenia,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in Gyumri. “Naturally, the verdict will be adequate.”
In Slutsky’s words, a Russian military court will hold hearings on the case at the premises of a Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri. He couldn’t say whether the trial will take place in closed session.
Permyakov has been kept in custody there ever since murdering, for still unknown reasons, Seryozha Avetisian, his wife, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and two small grandchildren. Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian formally demanded his extradition following angry street protests in Gyumri. Many local residents as well as other Armenians believe that a Russian trial of Permyakov would increase chances of a cover-up of the gruesome crime.
Organizers of those protests have threatened to stage more rallies if Permyakov remains in Russian custody. One of them, Levon Barseghian, dismissed Slutsky’s remarks on Monday, insisting that the Russians would not solve the case.
Barseghian also accused the Armenian authorities of not doing enough to get hold of Permyakov. “The Armenian authorities must explain who asked the Russian authorities to hold the trial in Armenia. I have not heard about such requests,” said the prominent civic activist.
Permyakov’s extradition has also been demanded by lawyers representing relatives of the Avetisian family. One of them claimed earlier this month that Russian authorities are withholding important evidence that could shed more light on the killing spree.
Few details of the Russian investigation, supposedly coordinated with a separate inquiry conducted by Armenian law-enforcers, have been made public so far.
In a related development, Felix Tsolakian, the governor of Armenia’s Shirak province, of which Gyumri is the capital, revealed on Sunday that the commander of the Russian base, Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky, has been sacked by the Russian military. Tsolakian also said several other Russian officers serving in Armenia have been subjected to disciplinary action in connection with the killings.