By Ruzanna Stepanian
The chief of the Armenian police pledged Wednesday to save no effort to find and punish the perpetrators of a failed attempt on the life of Gyumri Mayor Vartan Ghukasian, saying that at stake is the credibility of the country’s security apparatus.
“This is a very impudent crime,” Lieutenant-General Hayk Harutiunian said of Monday’s late-night armed attack that left Ghukasian seriously wounded and killed three of his bodyguards. The mayor’s deputy and driver were also wounded and hospitalized.
“I consider it a gauntlet thrown down to us law-enforcers,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL. “The police have picked up the gauntlet and will do everything to identify and punish the criminals. Nobody should doubt that.”
A convoy of two cars carrying Ghukasian, his top aides and security guards came under fire shortly after it left Yerevan for Gyumri. The official was returning to Armenia’s second largest city after attending a meeting of the leadership of the governing Republican Party (HHK), of which he is a member.
Armenia’s Police Service, National Security Service and Office of the Prosecutor-General promptly launched a joint criminal investigation into the deadly shooting. President Robert Kocharian told the heads of the three law-enforcement on Tuesday to take “all necessary measures” to solve the crime. No arrests have been reported so far.
“Nothing has been cleared up,” admitted Harutiunian. “There are definitely theories [of the crime] but we do want to publicize them,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office likewise said that the investigators are examining several different theories, but refused to give details. It is not clear whether they think the shooting may have had any connection with Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
The Armenian police and prosecutors were already under fire over a series of high-profile killings committed in broad daylight last year. Among their victims were a senior member of the Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans, a reputed crime figure, and a high-ranking tax official. None of those killings have been solved yet.
Meanwhile, Kocharian visited on Wednesday a Yerevan hospital where Ghukasian underwent surgery after being wounded in the abdomen. According to the presidential press service, Kocharian spoke with the wounded mayor and wished him a speedy recovery.