YEREVAN—Armenia’s National Security Service uploaded a video on YouTube showing two suspects detained Thursday in connection with the assassination attempt on Armenia’s presidential candidate Paruir Hayrikyan, reported the ARKA News Agency.
The two detainees appear in the video in handcuffs, and are led out from the room by NSS agents in masks.
The two individuals were detained during the search operations conducted by the National Security Service.
The NSS identified the suspects as Khachatur Poghosyan, 46, and Samvel Harutyunyan, 40. The NSS stated that both were living in Yerevan illegally and were convicted in past of drug trafficking.
Both detainees have already confessed, the NSS said, adding that the motive was currently being investigated.
“Motives for the crime are being verified and the public will be periodically informed about the course of the investigation,” added the statement.
President Serzh Sarkisian was reported to welcome the development at an extraordinary meeting with the NSS director, Gorik Hakobian, and other senior law-enforcement officials. The presidential press office said the meeting focused on measures to ensure the personal security of all presidential candidates and their “full-fledged and equal participation” in the election campaign, reported RFE/RL.
In a statement, the office quoted Hakobian as briefing Sarkisian on the ongoing criminal investigation into the shooting attack. He said the investigators are now in a position to fully solve the case, according to the statement.
Hayrikian, who remains in hospital, was quick to react to the arrests. “Only the instruments [of the crime] have been identified so far,” he told reporters. “But there is no word yet on the mastermind.”
“I’m happy that they have achieved something,” he said of the NSS investigators.
Hayrikian said earlier that he can recognize a lone gunman who fired two gunshots at him from close range on January 31. He claimed that the shooter had “European features.” None of the arrested men, shown in pictures released by the NSS, fits that description.
Even so, the presidential hopeful, who leads a small party called the National Self-Determination Union, implied on Friday that he believes one of the suspects is apparently the man who shot him.
Hayrikian commented on this contradiction when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) later in the day. “In connection with this crime, I said some things in order to delude those who were behind it,” he said. “So please do not consider my public statements on the case substantiated because I have my considerations.”
The NSS announced the arrests the day after Hayrikian threatened to reconsider his decision not to seek a two-week postponement of Armenia’s presidential election slated for February 18. He said his health condition has somewhat worsened in the last few days and pointed to his rivals’ “slanderous” allegations that he himself stage-managed the shooting. Hayrikian also said on Thursday that he expects progress in the investigation conducted by the NSS.
Hayrikian announced on Friday he will meet with his close associates later in the day to finally decide whether to ask the Constitutional Court to delay the presidential ballot. A spokesman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the court received no petitions from the Hayrikian campaign by the end of the business day.
Hayrikyan was shot in the shoulder in the center of Yerevan, Tpagrichneri street, where his parents live, around 11:30 on January 31. He was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery to remove the bullet.