By Emil Danielyan
President Serzh Sarkisian dismissed on Thursday the longtime chief of the Armenian police, Lieutenant-General Hayk Harutiunian, and appointed another career police officer in his place.
A statement by the presidential press service gave no reasons for the decree that has been widely anticipated since Sarkisian took office on April 9.
Harutiunian had been named chief of the national police in the wake of the October 1999 armed attack on Armenia’s parliament. His replacement, Alik Sargsian, had held senior positions in the police departments of Yerevan and the southern Ararat region before being appointed as regional governor in 2000. Sargsian is reputed to be a figure close to Hovik Abrahamian, the influential chief of the Armenian president’s staff who holds sway in Ararat.
Local commentators have suggested different reasons for the impending change of police leadership. Some of them have speculated that Sarkisian is keen to distance himself from key organizers of the suppression of the post-election opposition demonstrations in Yerevan that left at least ten people dead. Just last Tuesday he sacked another, even more powerful, security official who also reportedly had a hand in the bloody crackdown.
Grigori Sarkisian (no relation to Serzh) headed an agency responsible for the security of the country’s most high-ranking government officials. He is believed to be one of former President Robert Kocharian’s most trusted associates. The two men jointly attended official ceremonies marking Armenia’s Republic Day on Wednesday.
Other commentators believe that the personnel changes are part of President Sarkisian’s efforts to cement his grip on power by getting rid of key Kocharian loyalists. Reports in the Armenian press have claimed that Kocharian disapproved and even tried to block the sackings.
Speaking to RFE/RL on Tuesday, Grigori Sarkisian denied any political motives behind his dismissal.
(Photolur photo: Hayk Harutiunian.)