Russia has agreed to allow Armenian law-enforcement authorities to prosecute a Russian soldier who has confessed to murdering the seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri last January, President Serzh Sarkisian announced on Friday.
Sarkisian was cited by his press office as revealing a Russian “decision to transfer the murder case to the jurisdiction of Armenia’s Investigative Committee” at a meeting with Russia’s visiting Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov.He also spoke of its “further judicial investigation by a relevant Armenian body.”
A statement by the office did not clarify whether this means that the soldier, Valery Permyakov, will be extradited to Armenian investigators or at least be tried by an Armenian court.
The Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source in Russia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General as only confirming that “the indictment in the Permyakov case will be supported by the prosecutor’s office of Armenia.” It did not elaborate.
Permyakov has been kept under arrest at the Gyumri headquarters of the Russian military base in Armenia ever since being arrested hours after a local couple, their daughter, son, daughter-in-law and 2-year-old granddaughter were found dead in their home on January 12. The seventh member of the Avetisian family, a 6-month-old baby boy, died of his stab injuries a week later.
Permyakov admitted murdering them during his separate interrogations by Russian and Armenian law-enforcement officials. His motives remain unclear.
Russian authorities made clear immediately after the shock massacre that Permyakov will not be extradited to Armenia. This caused outrage in Armenia, with many fearing a Russian cover-up of the case. Thousands of people demonstrated in Gyumri on January 14-15 to demand Permyakov’s handover to the Armenian side. Some of them clashed with riot police near the local Russian consulate in Armenia’s second largest city.
The unprecedented protests forced Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian to formally ask his Russian counterpart Yuri Chayka to ensure that the high-profile case is transferred to Armenian jurisdiction. Still, even after Kostanian’s letter to Chayka Russian officials insisted that the detained soldier will be tried by a Russian military court.
Sarkisian’s announcement of what looks like a Russian U-turn on the issue came amid continuing street protests in Yerevan against electricity price hikes initiated by Armenia’s Russian-owned power distribution network.