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Former Gyumri Mayor Vartan Ghukasian was set free on Tuesday night after spending almost three hours at a police station in connection with a high-profile murder committed in Armenia’s second largest city.

Ghukasian, his equally controversial son Spartak and two dozen other men were rounded up by the Gyumri police following the killing of a man connected to the ex-mayor’s most bitter local rival.

The victim, Artyom Karapetian, and another local resident, Harutyun Khachatrian, were shot in broad daylight. Khachatrian is known as a godfather of the extended family of Martun Grigorian, a local businessman who has long been at loggerheads with the Ghukasian family. Various members of the two feuding clans have frequently clashed with each other in recent years.

Karen Shahbazian, the chief prosecutor of Armenia’s Shirak province, of which Gyumri is the capital, announced on Wednesday that one of the ex-mayor’s nephews, Vahe Ghukasian, is the main suspect in the case.

“During the investigation evidence has already emerged that the crime was committed by Vahe Ghukasian,” Shahbazian told journalists. “He has confessed to the crime committed by him,” he said, adding that the young man is now under arrest.

Vahe’s brother Kolya was detained at an Armenian-Georgian border crossing following the shootings on Tuesday. According Shahbazian, investigators are now trying to clarify the reasons for his “attempt to leave the republic immediately after the incident.”

“All those individuals who were involved in that crime in any way will be held accountable,” added the prosecutor.

He gave no indications that Vartan Ghukasian, who served as Gyumri mayor for almost 13 years, also risks prosecution on murder charges.
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