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Military Vows Sackings Over Deadly Shooting


Armenia - Relatives of Lyuks Stepanian, a soldier killed by a fellow conscript on May 15, demonstrate on a highway 50 kilometers north of Yerevan, 18May2013.

Armenia - Relatives of Lyuks Stepanian, a soldier killed by a fellow conscript on May 15, demonstrate on a highway 50 kilometers north of Yerevan, 18May2013.

Several army officers are currently under investigation and will be sacked in connection with the latest non-combat death of an Armenian soldier, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

The soldier, Lyuks Stepanian, was shot and killed by a fellow conscript, Davit Khachatrian, in still unclear circumstances on May 15. Another soldier from their army unit deployed in northern Tavush province was seriously wounded in the incident.

Khachatrian was taken into custody and charged with murder. He will face a lengthy prison sentence in found guilty. Few details of the criminal investigation into the shooting have been made public so far.

Artsrun Hovannisian, the Defense Ministry spokesman, said the ministry is also conducting a separate internal inquiry. “After the internal inquiry is over, relevant people will be punished. There are some officers who will avoid prosecution but will be relieved of their duties,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). The commanders of the regiment and the battalion where the soldiers served as well as their deputies could be among those officers, he said.

Hovannisian added that criminal charges could be brought against other, lower-ranking officers, including the commander of the soldiers’ platoon.

Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian personally promised sackings when he was confronted by furious and grief-stricken relatives of Stepanian on Saturday. Ohanian met them after they threatened to take the dead soldier’s body to Yerevan and put it on display outside a government building.

It is still not clear why Khachatrian opened fire on his comrades. Military officials say only that the shooting was preceded by a dispute between him and Stepanian.

Representatives of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, visited the arrested soldier earlier this week. One of them, Yeranuhi Tumaniants, said Khachatrian assured them that he was not ill-treated in custody. Asked whether he explained why he shot the two other soldiers, Tumaniants said, “He couldn’t go into details because he was in a severe psychological condition.”

The Armenian military and Ohanian in particular pledged to toughen the crackdown on army crimes resulting in non-combat deaths after the chronic problem gained a greater public resonance about three years ago. Dozens of army officers have been fired, demoted or prosecuted since then. Human rights activists say, however, that the military is still not doing enough to address the problem.
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