The chief of President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff on Friday dismissed as “disinformation” media reports that he is under growing pressure to step down for allegedly facilitating the beating of one of his subordinates by Yerevan’s Mayor Gagik Beglarian.
Beglarian resigned on Wednesday after reportedly assaulting an official from the presidential protocol department, Aram Kandayan, in a dispute over seating at the December 3 concert by Spanish tenor Placido Domingo.
Kandayan is said to have incurred the mayor’s ire after asking the latter’s wife not to sit next to Sarkisian. Such seats are traditionally reserved for Armenia’s prime minister, parliament speaker and the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Beglarian, who did not attend the concert, allegedly drove Kandayan to one of his properties in Yerevan and beat up the young official there the next day.
Newspaper reports claimed that it was Karen Karapetian, the head of the presidential administration, who arranged Beglarian’s meeting with Kandayan. They said Karapetian offered to resign after Kandayan’s colleagues accused him of complicity in the beating. Some media outlets insisted on Friday that he is now shunned by many administration officials and will eventually have to go.
In a written statement issued through the presidential administration, Karapetian said these reports are spread by his unnamed foes and “have absolutely nothing to do with reality.” He said his relationship with President Sarkisian remains “normal and businesslike.”
“And some individuals’ attempts to create disagreements within the president’s staff will always be doomed,” added the official.
Sarkisian’s press secretary, Armen Arzumanian, likewise denied the alleged “boycott” of Karapetian by his subordinates. “There are and there can be no so-called factions within the staff of the president of the republic,” the 7or.am news service quoted him as saying.
Karapetian already came under media fire last month after insulting one of the employees of a chemical plant who demonstrated outside the presidential palace in Yerevan to demand the payment of their back wages. He never apologized for that.
Karapetian, whose brother Samvel is one of Russia’s wealthiest Armenians, was the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) before taking over the presidential staff in September 2008. Analysts believe that he is not as influential as his deputy Mikael Minasian, Sarkisian’s son-in-law and reputedly closest confidante.
Minasian was reportedly instrumental in Beglarian’s dramatic ouster. The mayor’s resignation came just hours after Sarkisian’s office condemned the mayor’s behavior as “unacceptable and intolerable.”
The Armenian police, meanwhile, have made clear that Beglarian will not face prosecution. Speaking to journalists on Thursday, the national police chief, Alik Sargsian, argued that the police have received no formal complaint from Kandayan and can therefore not open a criminal case.
Sargsian said nothing about possible criminal proceedings against Mihran Poghosian, the controversial head of an Armenian Justice Ministry service tasked with enforcing court rulings who allegedly assaulted one of his subordinates recently.
Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian was unexpectedly sacked on Thursday for what the Armenian government described as his failure to take disciplinary action against Poghosian. The latter has retained his job so far.