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By Hovannes Shoghikian and Astghik Bedevian
A wealthy member of Armenia’s parliament affiliated with the governing Republican Party (HHK) remained in intensive care in a Moscow hospital on Thursday one day after being shot and seriously wounded at a local casino.

Police in the Russian capital, meanwhile, launched a criminal investigation into what they believe was an attempt on the life of businessman Tigran Arzakantsian. A senior official at the Moscow police department, Mikhail Ionkin, told RFE/RL that investigators have not yet identified the assailants.

Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said its permanent representative to Russia met with Russian law-enforcement officials conducting the inquiry and received assurances that “all necessary measures are being taken to clarify all circumstances of the murder attempt and identify the guilty individuals.”

Arzakantsian, who owns one of Armenia’s largest brandy companies, was shot at the casino of Moscow’s exclusive Metropol Hotel early Wednesday in still unclear circumstances. He was rushed to hospital and underwent surgery that lasted for several hours.

“His condition is evaluated as grave,” Viktor Kaznacheyev, chief doctor at the Sklifosovsky medical center, told RFE/RL. “He remains in intensive care.”

According to Eduard Sharmazanov, an HHK spokesman, Arzakantsian, 41, regained consciousness and was even able to speak on Thursday.

Both Sharmazanov and a senior HHK lawmaker, Samvel Nikoyan, said they know few details of the shooting incident but are convinced that the attackers tried to kill Arzakantsian. In Nikoyan’s words, they were said to have a distinctly Caucasian appearance and may have therefore been Armenians.

Arzakantsian, who is reputed to be a keen gambler, had already been hospitalized after being beaten up at another Moscow casino in March 2006. Reports in the Armenian press attributed the incident to a gambling dispute, saying that he lost as much as $800,000 on a single night and failed to pay up. Arzakantsian denied those reports.

The Russian Regnum news agency cited unnamed law-enforcement sources as saying said that Arzakantsian was a frequent guest at the Metropol casino, having visited it for 33 times this year alone. His visits to the National Assembly in Yerevan have been far more rare.

(Photolur photo)
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