By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Harry Tamrazian
The dean of the faculty of Russian studies at Yerevan University, Karen Mkrtychian, was shot dead today in the center of Yerevan by unknown assailants. The prosecutor's office in Yerevan central district filed a criminal suit of premeditated killing and unlawful possession of arms. The office of the Prosecutor General took over the case later in the day and launched an investigation.
A spokesman for the Prosecutor General told RFE/RL that the investigation is under way and no arrests have yet been made. He declined to give further details. Meanwhile, the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported that the prosecutor's office is also looking into a possible connection between the murder and students who failed to pass state exams. A spokeswoman for the Russian studies faculty told RFE/RL that there are at least two students who failed to pass state exams, but she declined to reveal their names.
Friends and colleagues of Karen Mkrtychian told an RFE/RL correspondent that he was very peaceful and polite man and didn't have any business connections or political interests. Mkrtychian, who was re-elected as a dean several days ago, has headed the Russian studies faculty since 1999. He was the son of famous Armenian literary critic Levon Mkrtychian.
The deadly shooting also angered Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, who told RFE/RL that the victim of the crime had nothing to do with politics and business. "The murder of an intellectual and scholar was a shock for us and we have already ordered the appropriate agencies to speed up the investigation," Markarian told RFE/RL.
Asked how the government is dealing with the worsening crime situation in Armenia, Markarian said that President Robert Kocharian is personally involved in dealing with violent crime and that he has already planned appropriate measures.
Another high-profile shoot-out last week claimed three lives, including that of an Armenian Defense Ministry official. On 26 June, the State Prosecutor's office launched an investigation into those murders, which some observers have linked to a dispute between Armenian oligarchs.