An Armenian soldier has been arrested on charges of shooting and killing a fellow conscript in a dispute late last week, military authorities in Yerevan said on Tuesday.
The incident occurred on January 27 at a frontline army unit deployed near Nagorno-Karabakh. Paylak Shahnazarian, a soldier serving there, was reportedly gunned down by one of is comrades in still unclear circumstances.
The Armenian Defense Ministry’s Investigative Service identified the alleged shooter as Khachatur Sargsian. It said he turned his gun on Shahnazarian after bitterly arguing with the latter.
A spokeswoman for the service refused to specify the reasons for the row. She said only that Sargsian is under arrest and will be formally charged later in the day.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian commented on the deadly shooting as he visited the French University in Yerevan. “This latest incident occurred as a result of violations of rules for military service and interpersonal relationships,” Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He blamed it on soldiers’ “lack of proper upbringing” and “mutual intolerance.”
Shahnazarian’s death was the latest poignant reminder of chronic crime in the Armenian army ranks which results in dozens of non-combat deaths each year. The problem received greater public resonance in 2010, leading the military and Ohanian in particular to repeatedly promise a tougher crackdown on hazing and other abuses.
Dozens of military personnel have been arrested, fired or demoted since then. According to military prosecutors, the number of soldiers who committed suicide, were killed by fellow servicemen or died from diseases and in various accidents fell by 40 percent to 26 last year.
Civic activists monitoring the armed forces insist, however, that the Defense Ministry is still not doing enough to tackle the problem.
Ohanian complained on Tuesday that many young Armenians develop aggressive and violent habits before being drafted to the army. “Many young men come to the army after learning the underworld code of honor from the society,” he told French University students.
The minister stressed at the same time that the military will now strive to address this problem in earnest, instead of using it to justify or downplay deadly cases. “We will seek to work in a way that would close the path through which criminal, bad mores enter the army from the society,” he said without elaborating.