By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia's two main law-enforcement agencies blamed each other on Friday for the previous day's brawl between their senior officials on a street in central Yerevan. Authorities, meanwhile, launched an inquiry into the extraordinary incident which came as a huge embarrassment for the interior ministry and the office of prosecutor-general.
The violent clash, triggered by a dispute over a parking spot, involved Deputy Interior Minister Hovannes Varian and Arsen Beginian, a senior investigator at the prosecutor's office. Witnesses, among them journalists, said a group of police officers joined the fistfight on Varian's side.
But there were conflicting accounts of just how the row turned violent. According to some newspaper reports, Beginian defied police orders not to park his car too close to a court building where the trial of October 1999 parliament attackers was going on. The prosecutor-general's office is headquartered in the adjacent building.
Some newspapers claimed that Beginian hit Varian in the face before being beaten up by the latter and police officers that guarded the court building where security is tight during the trial proceedings. The interior ministry spokesman, Artak Vartazarian, endorsed this version of events, effectively laying the blame on Beginian.
"An internal inquiry into this ugly incident is underway and I can't say anything else at this point," Vartazarian told RFE/RL.
However, the prosecutors insisted that Beginian was insulted by a policeman despite obeying his orders and driving the car away. A source in the prosecutor's office told RFE/RL that the investigator then demanded explanations only to be assaulted by the officer.
"Then the deputy minister came up and the whole thing started," the source said, adding that "quite a lot of interior ministry officials" joined the fight before Beginian was "freed" by his colleagues.
Both Varian and Beginian were seriously injured in the brawl. The latter's clothes were said to have been torn apart. Varian, who has the rank of police general and is responsible for maintaining public order in Armenia, was visiting a doctor when he was contacted by RFE/RL by phone on Friday. He refused to comment on the incident.
Officials said the preliminary inquiry jointly conducted by both agencies could result in a criminal case against participants of the fight.