Military investigators officially identified on Wednesday an Armenian soldier who they say shot dead four fellow servicemen and wounded three others at a military base in Nagorno-Karabakh late last week.
The Armenian Defense Ministry’s Investigative Department said Manvel Hazroyan, who also suffered serious gunshot wounds in the shooting, was formally charged with multiple murder and breach of combat duty rules on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the department told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Hazroyan admitted to the charges and was remanded in pre-trial custody. She would not say whether the investigators have already determined the cause of the deadly incident.
According to media reports citing unnamed military sources, Hazroyan went on a shooting spree and then attempted to kill himself on Friday night after being badly ill-treated by the other soldiers.
The soldier’s family residing in a village in Armenia’s southern Armavir province dismissed this theory and suggested that the 19-year-old could not have willingly incriminated himself. His father, Armen Hazroyan, was allowed to visit him in a military hospital in Stepanakert on Tuesday. He said he was only able to talk to his son in the presence of military officials.
“Manvel could barely say a few words to me. How could he have made a confession in such a condition?” Armen Hazroyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“My son couldn’t even slaughter chickens at home,” he said. “How could he shoot seven people? … He is no Rambo.”
“Maybe they are fabricating the case, maybe they coerced him,” said Hazroyan’s second son Grigor, who will be drafted into the army next month. “How can we know if they don’t let the parent talk to his son privately?” he said.
Citing Manvel’s government-appointed lawyer, the Hazroyans said he was hospitalized with multiple bullet wounds caused by a machine-gun. “How could anyone shoot himself in the stomach with a machine-gun?” argued Grigor. “A machine-gun is more than one meter long.”
According to the relatives, Manvel never complained to them of hazing or other serious problems throughout his year-long military service. His mother said that she spoke to him by phone three days before the killings and that he seemed to be in a good mood.
The Karabakh Armenian army was already hit by a similar deadly shooting four months ago. It left one officer and five soldiers dead. Military investigators said one of those servicemen gunned down the others before taking his own life.
Several Karabakh Armenian officers were dismissed and demoted following that incident. No such punitive actions have been announced yet in connection with the latest shooting.